H'burg Arts Center draws one step closer


Rebekah Stark Johnson was already lining up help and imagining art shows after Tuesday night’s Hattiesburg City Council meeting.

Johnson, who is executive director of the Hattiesburg Arts Council, had reached a milestone in the development of the arts in Hattiesburg. The Hattiesburg City Council received the donation of the former Hattiesburg American building at 825 N. Main St., a building that was offered to the city by Dr. David McKellar two years ago for the Hattiesburg Arts Council.

Johnson said the dream of using the former Hattiesburg American building, which has been vacant since 2014, has been realized.

“It’s in the perfect location, with both universities on either side, schools – private and public,” she said. “It’s all becoming real now.”

Johnson gathered with supporters – District 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden, HAC President Lici Beveridge and HAC Past President Kim Carson Whitt – to celebrate the new facility, which had been imagines since 1992.

“If we are going to say anything, we have to thank (former) Mayor Johnny DuPree and Mayor (Toby) Barker because they saw the need for the City Arts Center,” Johnson said as she considered the possibilities. “All of these cultural facilities are right downtown. … It incorporates all ages and all disciplines. There’s supposed to be a senior center across the street, so that would be good for the community.”

Dryden led the applause in the City Council meeting after the building’s deed was accepted. She made the motion to accept the deed.

The City Council also authorized payment for the environmental study, topographic survey and measured drawings for the property.

According to the Hattiesburg Arts Council’s website, “as early as 1992, our Cultural Assessment survey – which fielded suggestions such as the restoration of the historic downtown buildings and hosting more outdoor festivals – strongly asserted the cultural need for a community center capable of hosting interactive arts workshops from all major disciplines.”

The 35,000-square-foot warehouse and office space would provide space for all arts disciplines. A conceptual plan was drawn by architect Sarah Newton to include “gallery space, studio space, collaborative office space, culinary arts, a performing arts auditorium and a recording studio capable of recording large ensembles, dance studios, classrooms (and) rehearsal space.”

In March 2016, HAC members presented their plans to the City Council, proposing a 10-year renovation plan over three stages. The building served as a site in April 2016 for an intercollegiate design charrette with architecture and design students from LSU, USM and University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

In June 2016, then-Mayor DuPree considered securing New Markets Tax Credits to stimulate private investments to help finance a number of projects around the city, including the Community Arts Center.  The decision to pursue tax credit options was passed by the City Council on July 19, 2016.

A group of more than 40 interested citizens toured the building in August 2016 to look at its possibilities.

In other action Tuesday, the City Council:

• Adopted an Ordinance for the petition filed by The City of Hattiesburg to amend Sections 5, 11, 12 and 13 of the Land Development Code, adopted Feb. 21, 2017, to clarify language; define or clarify terms and uses; establish additional uses; modify certain permitted uses and potential conditions; address various issues on which the code is silent; clarify processes and authority for the City Council, Planning Commission, and Board of Adjustment; better align administration and enforcement with state law; and define the composition and terms of office for the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustments. The Planning Commission recommended to approve with amendments on Dec. 6, 2017.

• Voted 4-1 to table a vote on two petitions filed by Clint Walker, Applicant, to vary from Section 10.13.6 which states “Billboard replacement, of all or any part thereof, shall require the removal of two additional static billboard structures.” And instead replace one static billboard structure for a variance of two static billboard structures for a certain property located at 6192 U.S. Hwy. 98. The Board of Adjustment recommended to approve on Dec. 6, 2017. And a request for a permit for a replacement “Digital Billboard” as provided in Section 10.13.6 and all applicable regulations for a certain property located at 6192 U.S. Hwy. 98. The Planning Commission recommended to approve both petitions on Dec. 6, 2017. District 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado voted against tabling the vote.

• Adopted Resolutions adjudicating and directing the placement of an assessment for cleanup costs, not to exceed the value of the property per State law, as per the following: 504 Broad St., 706 E. Seventh St., 717 E. Seventh St., 719 Webster, 720 E. Seventh St., 800 E. Seventh St., 1418 Kinnard St. and 2507 W. Seventh St.

• Adopted Resolution authorizing Application to the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) administered by MDOT for a grant to be used for the Green Street/Hardy Street Roundabout Project; Authorized Mayor to execute certification document and other documents required for said application.

• Adopted Resolution authorizing Application to the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) administered by MDOT for a grant to be used for the Lillie Burney Sidewalk Project; Authorized Mayor to execute certification document and other documents required for said application.

• Authorized Publication of Notice of Final Settlement for contract with Fairley Construction Services, for the Gordon's Creek Repair project. Authorized payment of Final Pay Application in the amount of $243,440.45.

• Acknowledged declaration of state of local emergency due to the winter snow storm that occurred in Hattiesburg on Dec. 8, 2017, and end said State of Local Emergency.

• Acknowledged receipt of Judgment from the Forrest County Special Court of Eminent Domain in Civil Action City of Hattiesburg v. Stephen R. Dryden, Mary C. Dryden and New Growth LLC; Authorized issuance of manual check for $25,000 in accordance with judgment.

• Adopted a Resolution appointing Lamar Rutland as Director of Engineering for the City of Hattiesburg.

• Authorized Change Order No. 1 with M&M Services, for the Mount Carmel Baptist Church Building B Demolition, in the amount of $22,642.30 for necessary repairs to the existing building after demolition.

• Authorized City Attorney to file Eminent Domain suit pursuant to MS Code 21-37-21 on behalf of City of Hattiesburg to acquire property located off William Carey Parkway, known as the Historic Mount Olive Cemetery, for the purpose of assuming maintenance and upkeep of this historic site.

• Authorized Mayor to enter into an inspection/maintenance contract between the City of Hattiesburg and Malone Roofing Services, LLC for the roof at the Hattiesburg Police Department (temporary facility) located at 300 Klondyke St.

• Acknowledged receipt of appointments by Municipal Court Judge Wes Curry of Armendia Esters and Ashley Fortenberry as Deputy Municipal Court Clerks.

• Acknowledge receipt of Declaration of Forfeiture from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics forfeiting $509 to the Hattiesburg Police Department and $2,545 to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

• Approved Plans and Specifications for the COMSWIP Sewer Phase VIII project; Authorized advertisement for bids.

• Approved plans and specifications for the Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex Demolition Project; Authorized advertisement for bids for same.

• Approved plans and specifications for the Tatum Soccer Field Lighting Project and authorized advertisement for bid for same.

• Approved plans and specifications for the Sullivan Park Pavilion Project and authorized advertisement for bid for same.

• Approved the sale of grave spaces.

• Approved claims docket for the period ending Dec. 15, 2017.

• Acknowledged receipt of deeds and other documents for the 28th Avenue Bridge project; authorized issuance of manual check or checks as required for closing on said properties.

• Adopted a Resolution requesting the Mississippi Legislature to enact Local and Private Legislation authorizing the City of Hattiesburg to contribute or appropriate funds to the Twin Forks Rising Community Development Corporation.

• Authorized Mayor to execute contract between City of Hattiesburg and TFR Group, LLC, for the Twin Forks Rising Implementation Plan Phase III.

• Authorized Mayor to execute Agreement in duplicate with Neel-Schaffer for project management of the Hattiesburg Stormwater Management Program for a three-year period ending in 2020.

• Approved and Authorized Mayor to execute, in duplicate, a Professional Services Agreement between the City of Hattiesburg and Shows, Dearman, and Waits for sanitary sewer rehabilitation in various locations of the city.