The Mississippi Main Street Association has been selected as the recipient of a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training grant to provide planning activities in New Albany and four other Main Street communities in Mississippi.
The five designated Main Street communities that were selected had to meet specific criteria, including being located within a declared disaster county with a population of less than 10,000 and a median household income of less than $34,092.
The communities that met these criteria were invited to apply and were selected based on demonstrating project need for the community, ability to provide a local match in funding, and the capacity to implement the project in the community. The five Main Street communities selected include Aberdeen, Baldwyn, Columbia, New Albany, and Water Valley.
MMSA will use the USDA CFTAT grant to contract with Orion Planning + Design, a national community planning and design firm with a regional office in Hernando, to provide technical assistance and training to the five communities in three phases. The project will utilize the experience of three members of the Orion Planning + Design consulting team, and two members of the MMSA staff.
New Albany has already contracted with the Orion Group to create a comprehensive plan that was adopted recently, and the consulting group is also reworking the city’s outmoded zoning regulations.
While the comprehensive plan addressed some of the issues this grant will deal with generally, Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud said the Main Street grant will concentrate on the Main Street and downtown area specifically. Tying the city’s park areas together more was an example.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area will also contribute matching funds for the four selected Main Street communities that are located within the Mississippi Hills region.
“We are thrilled to receive funding from USDA to conduct important and meaningful planning work in five of our Main Street communities,” said Thomas Gregory, State Coordinator for MMSA. “We are also excited to have the MHNHA as a funding partner in this project that will further assist our local Main Street communities. We look forward to working with these five designated Main Street communities and seeing them through the implementation process that will lead to increased community development and overall economic vitality.”
Planning activities will encompass physical improvements as well as policy adjustments, with the former potentially including mobility connections, streetscape enhancements and improvements, and navigational aids such as wayfinding, and the latter encompassing recommendations related to public development policy. Each of these plays a role in enhancing and preserving community character and improving quality of life.
The first phase will discover and evaluate existing community conditions related to its community facilities by engaging a locally designated focus group comprised of key stakeholders who will serve as advisors for the duration of the process as well as conduct a community visit to refine the elements developed from focus group engagement.
The second phase of the CFTAT grant will be working with members in each community to identify implementable action items that will be developed and center on three core elements of community development: physical improvements, policy adjustments, and public and private investment programming.
The final phase of the grant project will be deliverables and outcomes that will be prepared in a detailed and comprehensive Community Facilities Plan. This plan will map existing community facilities, identify future community facility needs, explore the connection between existing and proposed facilities, and provide actionable steps that guide community members in implementation of the proposed improvements.
The Community Facilities Plan will be delivered to the community, and community stakeholders will receive on-site training that gives them the tools they need to implement the proposed activities.
“We are excited to partner with the Mississippi Main Street Association through our Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training program,” said John G. Campbell, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi. “Main Street associations help improve crucial hubs of commerce, and by working with organizations such as MMSA, we are able to increase rural prosperity and spur economic development in our state, both of which are fundamental to the mission of USDA Rural Development.”
About the Partners
USDA Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Through our programs, we help rural Americans in many ways. Together, America Prospers. For more information about USDA Rural Development, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
The Mississippi Main Street Association is a catalyst for the preservation and economic revitalization of Mississippi’s historic downtowns and districts. Since 1993, MMSA has provided more than $5 billion in public and private re-investment back into Main Street communities. For more information about MMSA, visit www.msmainstreet.com.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area was designated by Congress in March of 2009 and is one of only 55 NHAs in the country. MHNHA is a grassroots initiative that works in partnership with the National Park Service. Since 2016, the heritage area has awarded almost $1 million in community grants and special projects. For more information about MHNHA, visit www.mississippihills.org.New Albany Main Street, Orion Planning & Design, Rural Development Grant, USDA