Recently, I’ve learned that there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation circulating regarding this topic. The purpose of this post is to help clarify with facts.
Is Original Southaven forgotten?
I’ll save everyone the drama about my personal history in Original Southaven, but will summarize the facts by saying that I grew up on Southaven Circle in Colonial Hills, spent the first 21 years of my life here, and started my business here for the first 7 years. However, in my role as Mayor I put aside my personal, sentimental feelings and look at the revitalization through a larger scope. It is important for our entire city that we revitalize our original business district and preserve the quality of our original residential neighborhoods. Anyone that has paid attention and been around me at all knows that this is one of my top priorities. I believe our Board has also proven their support of this mission. So, “No”, Original Southaven is not forgotten, but instead a special part of our city. The suggestion that City government does not care about this part of our city is completely false. The fact is that every city eventually faces the challenge of preserving the original part of its city and this is not easy. This area began to lose businesses over 25 years ago and many residents moved to newer homes as our city developed. It is a simple economic fact that businesses go where the most customers for their products/services are. Government cannot stop these private decisions, nor can government force a business to locate in a certain area. What we can do, have done, and will continue to do, is improve the quality of public infrastructure and provide incentives for private business to relocate. We can preserve property values by enforcing our property maintenance code as it relates to residential properties as well as dilapidated commercial buildings. This does not happen overnight, but we are making progress and still have much work to be done. The goal is to give people a reason to travel to this part of our city which increases demand for products/services here again.
Is it true that less money is invested in Original Southaven?
No, during the last four years approximately $7.7 million dollars has been allocated to street and intersection improvement from the City budget. Ward 2 had the highest allocation with $2.4 million and Ward 1 had the 2nd highest allocation with $1.8. This excludes money that was spent on bond-called subdivision streets that never received a final layer of asphalt. This also excludes widening or extension projects to arterial roads that received federal funding with mandated allocation. We do have a lot of work still to do to get our streets in better condition and Ward 2 has many streets on our schedule for this budget year. Police and Fire EMS respond to more calls in Ward 2 than any other ward, thus more public safety resources are also spent in Ward 2.
Why is more Parks funding spent at Snowden Grove Park than Original Southaven?
Snowden Grove Park is the largest park in Southaven and has the highest demand for participation. Again, this is a simple economic decision. Money invested at Snowden has paid large dividends for the entire City. This is in the form of actual revenue generated, but more so in the general economic impact that the park has for our city. For example, the development that occurred near the park and continues to occur plus the tourism revenue has added significant funding to the City’s budget that is used to provide governmental services throughout our city, such as more fire and police and street improvement. So, regardless of whether you directly use the park or where you live, you benefit by this economic impact with stable property tax rates and improved governmental services. Snowden Grove Park also directly subsidizes all other parks as 95% of all park revenue is generated there. Maintenance of all parks is included in the City’s annual budget with a special line for “Neighborhood Parks”. The total parks budget is $5.5 million and direct revenue generates $2.3 million annually. This is almost unheard of as most cities fund their parks program almost 100% with taxpayer dollars. It’s also important to note that the land for Snowden Grove Park was donated to the city in the late ‘90s. The City also wants all of our parks to succeed and we promote all of them, however, we must consider demand when allocating resources.
Does the 2012 International Building Code discourage renovation?
The City is required by law to adopt current building codes. We have some flexibility in amending specific codes, but the majority of the code is required by law. There’s no question that renovating old buildings require more money to bring them into compliance with current building codes. The City is limited on what we can do to waive this cost and also concerned about the safety of our people. I wouldn’t advocate for making buildings less safe in one part of our city than another. We can and do give leniency for non-safety codes that don’t jeopardize property values for neighboring property owners.
What financial incentives or grants are available for revitalization?
Grants and federal or state funding programs for municipalities are geared mostly towards public infrastructure. The City of Southaven does receive funding from the federal Metropolitan Planning Organization for transportation improvements after applications are made for specific projects. Many other state grants are designed for smaller cities and, unfortunately, we are disqualified. This is a good problem to have as we have been extremely successful from an economic development and financial standpoint. Nonetheless, options are limited from grants. Revitalization of private property involves private developers or investors. Community Development Block Grants are available for these potential developers. The City also created the “West End “ business district which allows the maximum financial incentives that we can offer. It gives tax abatements for renovated property as well as a waiver of water/sewer tap fees, permit fees, and license fees. The distinction that is important to note is that it takes private development to renovate private buildings. The City is currently offering all possible incentives and will continue to aggressively improve public infrastructure.
What is the purpose of business districts?
Business districts are commonly used throughout the U.S. to highlight special qualities and create special interest for businesses in certain areas of a city. They have nothing to do with residential areas. State law also requires that geographic boundaries be designated with regard to some financial incentives for economic development.
Do we want to change the name and logo of the West End Business District?
The name “West End” was given because of the geographic location of our original business district. Our City has grown in a southerly and southeasterly direction, so our original business district is the western end of our city now. This name is also used in some of the most thriving locations of other cities in the U.S. Nashville’s “West End” is the location of Vanderbilt University. Dallas’ “West End” is a special part of their downtown area, and Greenville, South Carolina’s “West End” is their original business district that has successfully been revitalized. All of these areas have an extremely positive connotation of the name. The purpose of changing the name was to promote new activity and call attention to this area. The old “51/Main” district was stale and nothing had happened here in the last 15 years. Many of our citizens like the name and the color of the banners, however, we can certainly change both. Again, the purpose of both was to initiate change to call attention and create interest again in our original business district.
What has been done since 2013?
Volleyball Program at the Arena
Decorative Metro Street Sign Blades
Carriage Hills Pedestrian Project (Sidewalks)
ROW Maintenance Change to Public Works from Private Contractor for Improved Road Appearance
Removal of Thomas & Betts Rusted Water Tower
Mandatory Sidewalks for New Businesses
City Entrance Signs
Intersection Modernization at Highway 51/MS Valley & Stateline/Airways
Mississippi Valley Blvd/Highway 51 Landscaping Project
Main Street/Highway 51 Landscaping Project
Main Street Pavement Resurfacing Project
West End Business District Banners
Mast Arm Painting of Intersection Traffic Signals
West End Business District Financial Incentives
Property Maintenance Code (First-Ever To Require Renovation of Dilapidated Buildings & Improve Commercial & Residential Property Values)
Removal of Old Exxon Vacant Sign on I-55
Removal of Old Deposit Guaranty Bank Vacant Sign in Desoto Plaza Shopping Center
-Chamber of Commerce Renovation of Old Trustmark Bank Vacant Building
-Tops BBQ Renovation of Old Burger King Building
-Boat Warehouse Renovation of Old 84 Lumber Building
- New Conn’s Home/Appliance Store at Stateline/I-55
-New Restaurant in Old Ms. Winner’s Chicken Building
-Dixie Queen Ice Cream and Burgers
-Valero at Main/Whitworth
-South Pointe Church Renovation of Old Skating Rink/Bowling Alley at Stateline/Highway 51
-Shell Station Renovation of Old Pizza Inn on Stateline West of Highway 51
-West End Bistro Restaurant
- 2 New Dollar General Stores on Stateline and Highway 51
-New Family Dollar Store at Highway 51/Whitworth
-Waste Pro Renovation of Old 84 Lumber Building on Stateline West of Highway 51
What is planned for the future?
Police West Precinct on Highway 51
Intersection Modernization on Highway 51 at Main, Brookhaven, Rasco, and Custer (Replace span wire traffic signals with new mast arms having pedestrian alternatives.)
Remove Non-compliant Fred’s Sign on I-55
Municipal District Directional Sign at Main/Northwest Drive (Decorative Brick Sign with Video Board)
Main Street Pedestrian (Sidewalks) includes intersection modernization at Main/Whitworth
Performing Arts Center on Northwest Drive
Entergy to remove unnecessary poles on Main/Stateline
Paint Teardrop Light Poles on Main Street between Highway 51 and Northwest Drive
City Hall Renovation
Pedestrian-Friendly Improvement Plan (Bike Lanes & Sidewalks in Residential Subdivisions)
Simulated Wrought Iron Fencing along I-55 Ramps
Ongoing Enforcement of Property Maintenance Code to Renovate Dilapidated Commercial Buildings and Improve Property Conditions in Residential Neighborhoods
Ongoing Recruitment of New Business and Renovations with West End Business District Incentives with Chamber’s Assistance
Ongoing Specific Recruitment of Restaurants to the West End Business District