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Only through compromise can downtown continue its growth, success

Downtown Vicksburg is yet again at a crossroads when it comes to its identity. For some reason, downtown cannot figure out just what it wants to be.

In recent years, we have applauded efforts by the city, private investors, business owners and advocacy groups for their work in revitalizing downtown. The combined efforts of a lot of people have brought Vicksburg to a level where it again can be considered the heartbeat of The city. 

Through that investment, downtown is home to new and coming restaurants and entertainment outlets. And, it has become its own neighborhood of sorts with redeveloped buildings now including loft apartments and residential spaces that have attracted so many.

But that is where development and growth once again meet contentment head-on.

Recently, Mayor George Flaggs Jr., in working with some downtown eateries, launched a plan that would block off a portion of Washington Street — between Clay Street and South Street, between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. each Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday — for an enhanced pedestrian experience. By blocking off access to vehicles, the plan would allow businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, the chance to offer outdoor dining and drinking along the sidewalks and even portions of the street.

It would also lead to the opportunity for other retail businesses to offer expanded hours, offering sidewalk and street experiences of their own.

At a time when getting out and doing something has been the best cure for the malaise and psychological ills of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s plan would have given residents yet another opportunity to get outside, relax and enjoy the heart of Vicksburg.

But the plan, with some legitimate concerns, has been met with opposition and confusion. People who now call downtown Vicksburg their home are not as keen to see late-night entertainment options, while there are other issues they have as it relates to noise and parking.

All understandable concerns, but problems that are not beyond solutions.

It is that partnership between downtown residents and downtown business growth that must be created for all to flourish. It is also a partnership that must have a compromise.

Downtown Vicksburg cannot be a place that becomes simply a gated community with little opportunity for entertainment and business expansion. Nor can downtown Vicksburg become a place where people who want to live cannot do so happily due to the noise and commotion of an out-of-control entertainment district. 

Downtown Vicksburg’s continued growth and success lie somewhere in the middle, somewhere in the compromise and partnership between everyone involved.

Vicksburg needs a healthy and successful downtown to grow. The future of our city depends on the heart of the city, and that heart is downtown Vicksburg.