In early October, Hattiesburg city officials announced their intention to seek public opinion on the Bridging Divides, Building Opportunities initiative regarding future growth in the East Hardy Street and Hall Avenue corridors, including ideas on economic development, the redevelopment of a creative place – to do in these areas.
The first phase of this process will soon be underway, as the city’s urban development department prepares to host two community workshops for area residents, business owners and community leaders. The workshops will be held at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on December 7 at the Hattiesburg Historic Railroad Depot at 308 Newman Street in downtown Hattiesburg.
“It’s not so much about the viaducts and infrastructure projects that are already underway; it’s more about hearing the public and trying to get the public to provide as much feedback as possible on what they would like to see these hallways look like in the future, when the redevelopment was supposed to take place ”, said Andrew Ellard, director of the Urban Development Department. “It could be conversations about streetscapes and landscapes and things like that, which are in the public domain.
“But more than that, at this point we want to hear what they would like to see in terms of types of businesses, or maybe the quality of development associated with it – the look and feel of the place. . East Hardy Street is a good example, because it’s a very auto-centric place right now – there are a lot of auto-related properties, with a lot of unused and underused properties.
During the workshops, participants will be able to provide feedback that will ultimately help develop a plan that city officials can use for the streetscape, design guidelines, and zoning bylaws in the areas. . The workshop will include a presentation and interactive exhibits.
Feedback from the workshops will be aggregated, along with other engagement opportunities, to make recommended updates to the development code for these core corridors. Once recommendations are made, they will be packaged and presented to members of Hattiesburg City Council for review and adoption.
“(We want to know) what the community would like to see there, and how that connects with neighboring neighborhoods,” Ellard said. “It is a kind of recognition that public infrastructures (projects) will arouse interest in the region and bring traffic to it.
“I hope that with this we will see some underdeveloped properties, or undeveloped properties, regain some interest.”
Although this is the first public workshop related to this particular project, Ellard said similar meetings in the past have had impressive participation rates.
“Really, the last notable project that would have been like this was the development of the downtown master plan several years ago,” he said. “Of course there was a lot of community engagement and public input, and it went really well.
“I would love to see the same of it. We have reached out to churches and neighborhood groups, as well as the business community, along and near the corridor to try and let it be known that we have these opportunities.