Thursday, July 21, 2011
City plan in works
By SUE WATSON
Bob Barber rolled out important aspects of a 20-year plan he is developing for the City of Holly Springs during a recent luncheon.
Barber, partner in Orion Planning Group in Hernando, was guest speaker at the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Beckley Center on the Rust College Campus.
He was director of planning for DeSoto County from 1988 to 1996 and fashioned the last plan for Holly Springs in 1998.
Barber said the city was encouraged then to make use of its historic resources. The town ranks second in historic resources, second only to Natchez, which thrives on its historic core, he said. He credited former mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr. for adding this angle to the city plan by forming the Preservation Commission. That comprehensive plan from the late ’90s included the North Memphis Street and Rust College Community Development projects, he said.
The city was founded in about 1830 with the Chickasaw Cession. In 1850 the railroad was established and the city grew to the railroad tracks. When the state opened highways, the city spread around the highway intersections, most recently to Highway 78.
“The Holly Springs bypass, a key element to Holly Springs’ future, was started 18 years ago under Smith’s tenure,” Barber said. “In the process of developing communities, it takes time – decades. Community development is incremental and it happens over long periods of time.”
What is new in 2011 that is affecting community development in Holly Springs and elsewhere is the housing market collapse that took place about four years ago, he said.
Another factor that affects community development is health, he said. The obesity problem in Mississippi and health care costs in Mississippi are the highest in the nation, Barber said. Companies consider the health of a community before relocating or starting up, he said.
“We are in the epicenter of health issues in this country,” said Barber, speaking of Mississippi.
Children watch an average of 13 hours of television a week, a problem particularly associated with the African American male, he said.
“The roots of community planning in America have to do with health issues,” he said.
“Obesity, it’s a new challenge. We need to get people out and moving.”
He cited Holmes County as having the lowest per capita life expectancy – age 65 – in the nation.
Energy costs is another factor that impacts the transportation sector and infrastructure construction, he said.
“We have to think about that as we plan,” he said.
Barber discussed “the graying of America,” which is impacting the housing market and as retirees downsize their holdings into smaller lots.
Yet there is also a trend toward several generations living under one roof, he said.
Then there is the Internet, the gateway to the world.
Moving forward, Barber said focus groups will be involved in developing the 20-year comprehensive plan and the specified goals. The plan will be developed with the end goals in mind, he said.
The plan will include following up on the Main Street planning charrettes and will deal directly with catalytic projects such as the MI College campus development.
Focus groups already consider Holly Springs a “top flight” location with historic assets and recreational opportunities available in the county and nearby, Barber said.
Rust College will be a major catalyst for redevelopment of Holly Springs, focusing on education.
“Holly Springs is a town with a college and a college that cares about the town,” he said.
Other areas of opportunity include the new focus on the Hill Country Blues, he said.
What is lacking in Holly Springs is opportunity to retain youth, lack of professional services, the lack of a shared vision, lack of employment and lack of partnerships, Barber said.
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