Main Street program touts accomplishments
Published 9:34 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Vicksburg is a vibrant city, and it is due in part to the strides of the Vicksburg Main Street program.
In 2016, 11 new businesses opened their doors, 20 buildings underwent renovations and six new residential apartments were added to downtown, with more then $1.9 million in public investments and more than $3 million in private investments, Vicksburg Main Street Program executive director Kim Hopkins said during Vicksburg Main Street’s annual meeting.
More than 50 people turned out Tuesday for the event that included Hopkins’ update on Vicksburg Main Street’s strides, and a presentation by Jeannie Zieren that included Main Street’s history.
Zieren is director of training and information services for Mississippi Main Street Association.
Main Streets were once the hub of the community in the early part of the 20th Century, she said, but as urban renewal acts were implemented, the mass construction of highways and interstates became necessary.
Cities were spreading out, and people needed to get from point A to point B, so highways were built, bypassing downtowns, which resulted in them becoming empty and desolate.
“Downtowns were in a downward spiral, and that was not just happening to Vicksburg; it was happening across the nation,” Zieren said, so in 1987 a pilot Main Street project was started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save three Midwestern downtown cities.
“It became so successful that they began state-coordinated projects across the country and now today we have Main Street Programs from the East Coast to the West Coast,” she said, with 1,600 total in the U.S. and a few internationally.
“So we like to say that Main Street is one of the most successful economic development tools for bringing jobs, bringing businesses back to downtown, one job at a time, one small business at a time,” she said.
In Mississippi, there are currently 52 Main Street member communities, Zieren said, with Vicksburg claiming the first designated Main Street program in the state.
For those communities participating in the program, each receives technical assistance that focus on a four-point approach that includes organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.
Organization is about everyone working towards a common goal, Zieren said, and promotion focuses on creating a positive image of one’s downtown.
The design element of the four-point approach looks at the actual physical makeup of a downtown’s space and economic vitality needs to respond to today’s consumers.
“Economic development is the bottom line for progress,” she said.
For the past 30 years, $5 billion have been invested in the Mississippi Main Street Programs.
“For each state dollar, we leverage $718 in public and private investments, so we like to tell public officials and investors (that) as a public and private investment, this is the most cost effective economic tool in the state when you look at the money put in as to what comes out,” Zieren said, and if a community is to thrive, its downtown must be healthy.
Currently Vicksburg’s downtown residential market has more than 400 residential units with about 600 residents living in the downtown area, Hopkins’s said, and in the last five years has netted more than $60 million in property investments and improvements to the downtown infrastructure — putting restored buildings back on the tax role. Vicksburg’s downtown is also ranked as a top industry in terms of total jobs, retail sales and total property values.
Each year, 25 events are held in the downtown area bringing in more than 20,000 people, and Hopkins said some new events and attractions have been added for this year.