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PHIL HARDWICK: Questions and answers about streets, towns and real estate



Question. I understand that there are people who make a living buying and selling foreclosed property. Seems there are more and more television shows about flipping houses, etc. Is this a viable real estate activity?

Answer. The short answer to your question is yes. However, it takes a lot of work and a certain type of personality.

Allow me to tell you about a man who made his living off foreclosed properties .  It was in the ‘80s and real estate interest rates were skyrocketing .  He disappeared for a while after interest rates went down, but now he, or someone with his traits and characteristics, is back. The foreclosure man awakens each day and immediately checks the newspaper.  He could not care less about the news; he goes straight for the legal notices. There he finds the foreclosure section and makes a list of houses in certain neighborhoods.  Some of these houses he will want to buy and others he will want to negotiate with the owner.  His goal is to find home owners who are behind on their payments, but have a lot of equity in their property .  He especially is in search of owners who are desperate .  He knows that desperate owners have only two choices – lose their home to a lender or negotiate with the foreclosure man to keep their home.

Q. What are the most common street names?

A. What a great question. The Census Bureau published a list in 1993 that stood for a long time. Now, thanks to an article by Jeff Guo in the March 6, 2015 edition of the Washington Post, we have sort of an update. He looked at road data and came up with not only the top street names nationally, but also by state.

Nationally, the most common street names are Park, 2nd and 1st. Here’s the list for Mississippi. The number beside the name of the street represents the times it appears in road data.

Magnolia, 172

Oak, 172

Dogwood, 159

Pine, 152

2nd / Second, 142

Jackson, 140

Johnson, 136

Church, 135

3rd / Third, 133

1st / First, 130


Q. What are the qualities of a great street?

A. The Project for Public Spaces identifies its 10 qualities of a great street as follows:

Attractions & Destinations. Having something to do gives people a reason to come to a place—and to return again and again. When there is nothing to do, a space will remain empty.

Identity & Image. Whether a space has a good image and identity is key to its success.

Active Edge Uses. Buildings bases should be human-scaled and allow for interaction between indoors and out.

Amenities. Successful streets provide amenities to support a variety of activities.

Management. An active entity that manages the space is central to a street’s success.

Seasonal Strategies. In places without a strong management presence or variety of activities, it is often difficult to attract people year-round. Utilize seasonal strategies, like holiday markets.

Diverse User Groups. As mentioned previously, it is essential to provide activities for different groups. Mixing people of different race, gender, age, and income level ensures that no one group dominates the space and that others feel out of place.

Traffic, Transit & the Pedestrian. A successful street is easy to get to and get through; it is visible both from a distance and up close. Accessible spaces have high parking turnover.

Blending of Uses and Modes. Ground floor uses and retail activities should spill out into the sidewalks and streets to blur the distinction between public and private space. Shared street space also communicates that no one mode of transportation dominates.

Protects Neighborhoods. Great streets support the context around them. There should be clear transitions from commercial streets to nearby residential neighborhoods.

Q. What’s the best way to market your community? 

A. The essence of community economic development is to bring in more money from outside. Most communities spend considerable time recruiting new companies and the jobs they bring. But there are other ways to bring in outside money. Here’s my list:

1. Have a book, television or movie set in your town. Examples: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (books); CSI Miami (television); The Firm (movie).

2. Capitalize on famous local businesses. Fame of course is a relative term, but there are many businesses that attract outsiders and encourage them to spend money. Example: Boaz, AL Alabama  (outlet  stores).

3. Notorious events. Example: Bonnie and Clyde museum in Jena, Louisiana. I see that Orlando will purchase the Pulse nightclub, scene of the worst mass shooting in America.

4. Festivals and events. There are hundred of these all across the world, from the Johnny Cash Festival in Starkville to the Mozart Festival in Salzburg, Austria. I recently attended the Peter Anderson Festival in Ocean Springs. It brought in over 150,000 visitors for the weekend event.

5. Location – many cities are not taking advantage of their locations.  Put signs on the interstate; by the way the “historic downtown” is losing its meaning. I stop at the so-called historic downtowns and can’t find anybody who knows why it is historic.

6. Internet and Technology – I was at a town meeting where an individual stood up and said that the town was a great place for young people to start a business when a young man in his twenties got up and asked why the entrance to the city said “Certified retirement community.”

7. Word of mouth – Ah, the best form of advertising – ambassadors of goodwill. The creative class.

» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on the web at www.philhardwick.com.


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