Skip to content

Street Talk

Slowing Traffic Means Safety And Business

By Mickey Howley

Last week I went across the state and back in a diagonal fashion, from Ocean Springs to Hernando. I try to get off the big road and stop and see some of Missis-sippi’s Main Streets. If you are out and about this summer traveling, pause awhile and visit another Main Street or two.

Lise Foy is the Main Street Director in Canton; she had the same position in Greenwood for four years. Her office is in Canton’s depot right next to the tracks and a block from Canton’s photogenic and often filmed square. You would think Canton with its movie set like facades and historic courthouse would be a plush main street job, but it is not, there is much to do.

While Canton does not have any gaps in the square streetscape as in no empty lots on the square where buildings formerly stood, some buildings are empty or barely used. She wondered why people don’t sell commercial property rather than let it sit and decay. One building owner told her, “If this building was in Madison, you know how much it would be worth!” I had to laugh, having heard the same line comparing Water Valley real estate and Oxford.

Canton does have a strong preservation ethic, the architecture is exceptional, they are close to Jackson, and they just had a Community Resource Assessment. They are back on the move. If you are heading south on I-55, Canton is well worth the stop. It is looking good and getting better. A walk around Canton’s square is a real treat.

Hernando’s Mayor Chip Johnson came to Water Valley five years ago to talk about support for the Main Street Program. He said Hernando supported the program and hoped his town would prosper from it. When I saw him last Saturday on Hernando’s square at their busy farmers market, he was all smiles. The market was packed, all buildings on the square were occupied and looked great, and there was a new Italian restaurant with sidewalk dining and live music. The shade from the tall willow oaks beat the heat and the Memphis bicycle club was just rolling through.

This scene of Saturday morning Main Street bliss did not happen overnight, they have been working at it. Plus they have been lucky in DeSoto County’s tremendous growth. If you have not seen Hernando recently, you should and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Belhaven neighborhood just north of downtown Jackson is Missis-sippi’s only urban Main Street. Virgi Lindsay and Betty Smithson run the program housed in a restored bungalow on Fortification St. Belhaven is an interesting mix of historic houses, businesses, hospitals, and colleges. Virgi and Betty have beaucoup big projects going on a new multi-use building going up (housing, retail, offices, restaurants, hidden parking) and a streetscape of Fortification where the street will go from 4 un-divided lanes to 2 with a center turning lane. Why? Slowing traffic means safety for pedestrians and also more business. More business means buildings fixed and a better tax base to improve the community. Slow down and profit from it. If you visit Jackson, check out Belhaven again, a very nice part of town.

Check out the rest of Mississippi. Our Farmers Market farmers will have some fresh stuff this Saturday and they are thankful for the recent rain. Please more rain, less wind.  The Water Valley ArtCamp for kids is July 11 to 15; see the ad in this paper.

Leave a Comment