The City of Carthage recently held a planning charrette aimed at developing a future vision for the small community, and many attendees were driven to tears — of joy.
“When the charrette team started presenting their ideas, I couldn’t help it,” said Janelle Everett, manager of Carthage Main Street and native of the town. “To see what this community could become, it was just overwhelming.”
The charrette is not the end of the process for Carthage, but rather a beginning. Much more vision and hard work will be required. Still, it is a solid start.
And more Mississippi communities will get their opportunity at planning for tomorrow. The Carthage project is part of a program funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the West Alabama-East Mississippi WIRED Initiative. A total of 14 counties have been selected to participate in the program, with two North Mississippi communities next on the list.
Carthage’s location is enviable. Served by Highways 16, 25 and 35, the town enjoys a tremendous amount of traffic. All the town needs to do is grab those travelers — and their wallets.
Thus, much of the prospective projects presented at the charrette, which was preceded by an organizational meeting to allow citizens and leaders the opportunity to express their views on what the community needed, involved sprucing up the town and enhancing its aesthetics. A few of the proposals were:
• Connecting McMillan Park to Main Street with a Highway 16 crosswalk
• Developing Town Creek into a water attraction
• Developing downtown residential space, a museum, farmer’s market and senior center
• Widening sidewalks and improving store facades, all geared at giving Carthage’s courthouse square a totally new look
In addition to visual improvements, the team also explored improving another community weakness — a lack of branding. A plan was presented that would give the Carthage Main Street program, Leake County Chamber of Commerce and Leake Development Association giving them a common logo and promotional tools.
Now with the charrette completed, the nine-person team will draft an in-depth plan and report its findings to the Mississippi Main Street Association (MSMA) in Jackson. That is scheduled for October 20. Following that, the team will return to Carthage with its plan in hand — a poster-sized document that can be folded down to letter size — for the citizens to see.
One thing about the charrette pleased Everett. It was the unity and community spirit showed by those who attended.
“For this plan to work, our citizens must be involved,” she said. “It was great to see all of the people who attended, and the unity they showed.”
Carthage is one of the newer members of the MSMA, a statewide organization that is aimed at developing downtown areas. One of MSMA’s requirement for membership is prospective communities must show solid public-private relationships. Bob Wilson, executive director of the MSMA, said Carthage has more than met that requirement.
“You have to get everybody on the same page,” Wilson said. “That has come together so quickly in Carthage.”
“Carthage is like many other small towns in that sometimes they lose sight of their potential.”
With that in mind, the program will soon travel to Water Valley and Holly Springs. The Holly Springs meeting is set for mid-November, while Water Valley’s meeting is slated for some time in January.
The program will not be cookie-cutter, Wilson said, but will be tailored to the community. As example, Wilson said Carthage had a need for improved marketing and branding, and professionals in those arenas were part of that city’s team. Water Valley, on the other hand, has good branding and marketing. So, while its team will feature architects, urban planners, preservationists, etc., just as Carthage’s team does, Water Valley’s group will offer experts in areas identified by its pre-charrette meeting.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.