Back in early October, officials from the City of Hattiesburg announced plans 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, redevelopment a creative place-making in those areas.
The first phase of that process will soon be underway, as the city’s Urban Development Department is gearing up to hold two community workshops for residents, business owners and community leaders in the sectors. The workshops will take place at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Historic Hattiesburg Train Depot, 308 Newman Street in downtown Hattiesburg.
“This is not so much about the overpasses and the infrastructure projects that are already on the way; this is more about hearing from the public and trying to get the public to provide as much input as possible into what they would like to see those corridors look like in the future, as redevelopment were to occur,” said Andrew Ellard, director of the Urban Development Department. “That might be some conversations about streetscapes and landscapes and things like that, that are in the public realm.
“But more than that, at this point we want to hear what they would like to see in terms of the types of businesses, or maybe the quality of development that goes in – 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’s a lot of automotive-related properties, with a lot of un-utilized and under-utilized properties.”
During the workshops, participants will be able to provide feedback that will ultimately build a blueprint for city officials to use for streetscape, design guidelines and zoning regulations in the areas. The workshop will include a presentation and interactive exhibits.
Feedback from the workshops will be aggregated, along with other opportunities for engagement, to make recommended updates to the development code for these primary corridors. After recommendations are made, they will be packaged and presented to Hattiesburg City Council members for consideration and adoption.
“(We want to know) what the community would like to see there, and how that connects with the neighborhoods nearby,” Ellard said. “It’s kind of a recognition that the public infrastructure (projects) are going to bring interest in the area, and going to bring traffic to the area.
“Hopefully, with that, we see some underdeveloped properties, or undeveloped properties, regain some interest.”
To learn more about the planning process, residents can visit http://hattiesburgms.com/buildingopportunities or share questions or concerns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although this is the first public workshop related to this particular project, Ellard said similar meetings in the past have had impressive turnouts.
“Really, the last project of note that would have been like this was the development of the midtown master plan several years ago,” he said. “Of course there was a lot of community engagement and public input, and it turned out really good.
“I’d like to see the same from this one. We’ve reached out to churches and neighborhood groups, and the business community, along and near the corridor to try to get the word out that we’re having these opportunities.”