John Howell Sr. Editorial 3/4/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Could C Spire challenge revive older home interest?

Batesville has problems that most of us are aware of some of the time, or some of us are aware of most of the time, but all of us are so strung out all the time that we don’t sit back, ponder and try to envision big-picture solutions that will turn them into opportunities.

I see a problem with the large inventory of old, historic homes for sale in Batesville that for whatever reasons have not found buyers after months on the market. If they continue languish, un-bought, unoccupied and unloved, they will eventually deteriorate or become subject to demolition.

The city has already taken a step towards improvement with its move to become a Certified Local Government by the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History. Homes in Batesville that lie within the historic district — and this includes most of those I am expressing concern about — would gain limited protection from demolition or “re-muddling” with the CLG ordinance in place.
But we need to go further with this. Around the turn of this century, real estate prices in Oxford were climbing so high and fast that people shopping for homes began to look at the large inventory of wonderful older homes for sale at reasonable prices in neighboring Water Valley. They bought, renovated, moved to Water Valley and have contributed significantly to the cultural bonanza that the Yalobusha city is enjoying today.

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The point is that there are certain people who are interested in older homes, who can afford their renovation and upkeep and for whom distance — from Oxford, Memphis, wherever — is not a deterrent.

What if the owners of these older homes or their representatives in the real estate business got together in a concerted marketing effort that targeted this group of potential buyers most likely to be interested? Not a piecemeal, one-house-at-a-time approach but a historic-homes-district approach?

Could the city itself (or the historic preservation commission when its members get appointed and organized) join in for a concerted, concentrated marketing approach? That’s a question for the city attorney, but it’s a question worth asking.

There’s another possibility that could enlarge this picture.

Current efforts to provide ultra-high-speed fiber optic Internet service to Batesville residents could make these older homes more appealing to this same group of potential buyers. With access to one gigabyte per second (1 Gbps) Internet service (download or upload) these homes could also double as incubators for savvy entrepreneurs developing the next application or digital resource — and this is where I bog down due to my limited understanding and imagination. But I am confident that access to 1 Gbps Internet speed is an immeasurably powerful tool when employed by bright young minds.

At present, Batesville’s best signup effort is in the Dogwood Hills Fiberhood where nine percent of the households of the 45 percent required have signed up for the service. When the 45 percent threshold is reached, fiber optic installation will begin in the neighborhood.

To date, the small town of Quitman, designated by C Spire as one Fiberhood, has signed up 51 percent of the approxmately 975 households in the Clarke County seat, exceeding its 45 percent goal and clearing the way for construction to begin.

The Allen Fiberhood in Horn Lake has signed up 47 percent; the South Mongomery Fiberhood in Starkville has signed up 50 percent and the Bridgewater Fiberhood in Ridgeland has signed up 48 percent, all exceeding the required 45 percent.

Corinth’s best Fiberhood is at 12 percent; Clinton’s best at 14 percent; Hattiesburg’s best is at four percent and McComb’s best is at five percent, according to C Spire’s web site.

Historic, older homes coupled with the fastest Internet possible. That’s a big picture I am asking you to challenge, critique, criticize and hopefully come up with a bigger picture idea.