By NASH NUNNERY
As an accomplished landscape architect, Brantley Snipes’ is most familiar with the concept that lawns and plants need constant nurturing.
The same theory might apply to an historic Mississippi Delta downtown.
Now the executive director for Main Street Greenwood, Snipes came up with the innovative Revolving Real Estate program to breathe new life into the city’s once-bustling downtown. Current property owners and Main Street members unable to sell or rehabilitate structures within the Main Street Greenwood district are eligible.
“It’s the first of its kind in Mississippi and we borrowed the idea from a similar program in North Carolina, “ said Snipes, a Greenville native who earned her master’s in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University. “We took the model and adapted it to Greenwood. Lots of these properties have sentimental value and people are interested in restoring our downtown.”
The Revolving Real Estate program allows owners whose property has deteriorated past the point of rehabilitation to donate the building to Main Street and write off the donation as a tax deduction. Snipes says Main Street Greenwood will then sell the property to a developer for half of its listed tax value, based on a contract from the buyer that the property will be brought up to standard.
The now-defunct Antoon Department Store was a Mississippi Delta icon for years until closing in the late 1990s. The vacant building at the corner of Main Street and Carrollton Avenue is the pilot effort in the program.
“Antoon was built in the early 1900s (1908) and remodeled in the ‘50s before going out of business,” Snipes said. “It’s in a prime location and we’ve had lots of interest in it. I thought we had a deal with a developer late last year but they back off, unfortunately.”
With a brick façade, Antoon Department Store has over 13,000 square feet and sits on a 65-foot-by-90-foot lot. Bids for the historic property will again be accepted after March 30, according to Snipes.
Purchasers of the property must agree to all rehabilitation terms, covenants and agreements set by Main Street Greenwood. Funds received from the sale of the property will reimburse the organization for any advertising or marketing costs, and then be placed in the Revolving Real Estate fund to help continue the program.
At the board’s discretion, funds may be used to purchase or rehabilitate other properties in the district.
Snipes remains confident that the program will infuse new life into the city’s downtown.
“Businesses are moving back in along Howard and Main streets,” she said. “Our focus currently is the Carrollton and Johnson streets area, where downtown has some larger square footage properties. Once we move the Antoon property, we’ll concentrate on the Carrollton/Johnson corridor.”
Word about the Revolving Real Estate program is getting out via an active social media campaign. Legal advertisements in the Clarion-Ledger and Greenwood Commonwealth newspapers have attracted attention. The state’s department of archives and history has been helpful, as well, added Snipes.
“It’s been a mountain to climb – we have more of an economic development approach here after Viking (Greenwood-based manufacturer of upscale kitchen appliances) was sold,” she said. “Viking maintained a huge footprint in downtown Greenwood.”
Snipes remains optimistic about the future of downtown Greenwood and the Revolving Real Estate program.
“The bottom line is that a project like this is for everyone, not just big-money developers,” she said. “It’s a grassroots process.”
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