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Street Talk

To paraphrase one of the more memorable lines from one of our more forgettable presidents, “Our not-so-long local nightmare is almost over.” That’s right. My month-long takeover of Mickey’s column ends today. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to keep this seat warm for a bit, but like all overwritten, bloviating guest columns, it must come to an end. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a few nice words about Mickey here. He’s a good egg, that Mickey, and he’s done a heck of a lot for this town over the years. Main Street was here before Mickey, and it’ll be here long after he’s gone, but I dare say it’s a little more funky, a good bit more vibrant, and a heck of lot more interesting because of the work he’s done as the Director of the Main Street Association and as co-owner of Bozarts Gallery with his lovely wife Annette. 

Mickey was one of the big reasons Kathryn and I began to look at Water Valley as an alternative to Oxford several years ago. He was a huge help in guiding me and my business partners through the vagaries of renovating 20 South Main Street and applying for the tax incentives that come along with a quixotic undertaking like that. Simply put, he’s just a good guy to have in your corner. And we’re all lucky he and Annette are in our corner of the world. 

Mickey’s pretty good at letting folks know about the good work the Main Street Association (MSA) does, so I’ll leave that to him. As a member of the board of that Association, however, I’d like to invite all of you to help us think of ways to invigorate our efforts to preserve and promote our historic downtown. The Chamber does a world of good with their events and initiatives, but between them, the MSA, the Junior Auxiliary, the churches, and all the creative and talented folks we have in town, I can’t help but think there’s still more we can do to entice folks to come downtown. 

My hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, aka the Queen City of the Coosa, has a fun event every month called First Friday. All the businesses stay open late, there’s live music outside, classic cars fill the main drag, and families meet, greet, shop and eat downtown that night. There’s a bounce house. It’s a cool event and it could be a cool thing for us to do on Main Street one night every month.  

I also deeply believe our Pocket Park is an underutilized resource.  I recently traveled through the charming little town of Henderson, Kentucky, where they have a similar space in their downtown on which they built a cool, wooden pergola where folks meet to share meals purchased from nearby restaurants. It turns the downtown into an open-air food court of sorts, and it even has power outlets so folks can bring their laptops and work outside. I think our Pocket Park is a prime candidate for that sort of communal space. 

While we’re dreaming big, I’d love to see more things for our kids to do in the heart of Main Street. I know Coulter is all about a Splash Pad and I think it’s a grand idea! Frankly, I’d love to see the lot behind the 200 block of North Main Street become a big park with swings and trees and places for kids to play and have fun while parents shop and visit along Main Street. 

Lastly, property owners up and down Main Street are leaving a ton of money on the table by not renovating the upstairs areas of their historic buildings into living spaces.  The renovations themselves come with a dollar for dollar personal income tax credit on 40 percent of the total cost of renovations, and the rents you’ll bring in with a nicely done apartment will more than cover your note and taxes. 

Wait, did someone say taxes?!?! That’s right! Those same renovations will add value to the property, which will increase the property tax (which your new renter is covering for you), which will in turn lead to more revenue for the city to spend on roads and schools and all those dang parks I’m talking about. Not to mention you’ll have created space for new folks, with their money, and cars, and jobs, and other taxable assets to come to town. It’s the super rare win-win-win situation! 

If you have ideas for ways to add even more good energy to our great little downtown, call Mickey! Or, stop me on the street and let me buy you a cup of coffee at The Humble Bee and let’s talk about how to work together to do some cool stuff. 

Thanks to David and the good folks at the Herald for having me around this month. Be sure to say hello to Mickey when you see him around town and thank him for all the good he does for Water Valley. 

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