Batesville Downtown

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

City hears ‘master plan’ for downtown

By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Batesville received an update Monday on a possible master plan for the Downtown Square during a meeting with Belinda Stewart Architects’ representatives.

“We spent a lot of time in your downtown, and we hope you will like what we have done,” Stewart said. “The key to this process is going to be implementation, and it can’t just be the Main Street Program.”

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After her opening remarks, Stewart turned the program over to project designer Maggie Bjorgum.

“The root of Batesville is downtown, and it’s really the community’s heartbeat,” she said. “It is time to get that heartbeat going again.”

Bjorgum told the city they had a lot of positives in the downtown area to work with.

“You have a ton of businesses and amenities within a five-mile walking radius,” she said. “You have lawyers, a spa, dry cleaners, and city offices all within walking distance of the downtown area.”

Bjorgum suggested a Downtown Action Team (DAT) to oversee and plan the implementation process for the master plan.

She added that the DAT would be comprised of city representatives and downtown shareholders such as business and property owners in the downtown area.

“One of the most important things is for the DAT and other shareholders to work hard to create a marketable identity for the Downtown Square,” she said. “We want to preserve the historic integrity of the area, while making it more marketable.”

Ways of making the Square more marketable that were proposed including developing a logo to be used on materials like signs, menus, t-shirt and shopping bags.

“We want it to get to where people look at the logo and automatically want to know what the City of Batesville has going on,” she said.

Bjorgum also encouraged more events on the Square.

“You want to have several events per year so people will come to your downtown,” she said. “Once you get them drawn in, they will see what all the Square has to offer.”

As part of the master plan, Bjorgum suggested the city widen the sidewalks around the Square to 15 feet and make the traffic around the Square one-way.

“If we have the wider sidewalks, you can have planters or light posts that can serve as a buffer between parking spaces and pedestrian traffic,” she said. “That will make the Square more pedestrian friendly.”

Stewart recommended the city become a Certified Local Government (CLG) through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“By becoming a CLG, you can identify a historic district and would qualify for grants that are given out annually,” she said. “It’s not a huge amount of funds, but it is steady.”

“I think you have some great ideas,” Ward 3 Alderman Stan Harrison said.

Ward 4 Bobbie Jean Pounders said she would like to see more retail businesses locate to the Square.

“We have a lot of businesses that could be retail space that have been rented out to law offices,” she said. “We need to get our retail space back.”

Bjorgum said the retail space is important, but added the city should work to market buildings with existing vacancies.