Carl Small Town Center Director shows multi-modal interpretive trail to Martin Luther King III

May 30th, 2018 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center Director shows multi-modal interpretive trail to Martin Luther King III

Contributed to by Sasha Steinberg | Mississippi State University

Martin Luther King III visited Marks in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Marks Mule Train and his father’s Poor People’s Campaign for a week of events from May 7-13.

Mississippi State University Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) Director Leah Kemp was invited to the celebration to tour King through the multi-modal interpretive trail designed by the research center. The trail highlights the Marks Mule Train Civil Rights campaign, a vision of his father in the 1960s.

The Carl Small Town Center recently received two statewide awards for its “Marking the Mule” project, which focused on advancing citizen engagement in the Marks community – a 2017 Public Outreach Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association and an AIA Design Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

In July 2015, the CSTC was awarded a $25,000 Our Town grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to work with the community to vision a way to commemorate the historic civil rights campaign.

The yearlong public outreach campaign project engaged local residents, historians, architects and planners. The CSTC developed interpretive pedestrian and vehicle trails along with corresponding signage highlighting Civil Rights-related sites in Marks. They also designed a master plan for the designated Trailhead Park and built a welcome sign showing interactive maps for new trails.

Fred E. Carl Jr., a major Mississippi State benefactor and the Carl Small Town Center’s namesake, is a Greenwood resident who founded and served as the first president and CEO of nationally recognized Viking Range Corp. A one-time architecture major at MSU, he endowed the university’s statewide community design outreach program in 2004.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at Mississippi State University within the School of Architecture, was founded in 1979 to help address issues faced by Mississippi’s small towns.

Read more about “Marking the Mule” and the Carl Small Town Center.

Baptist Town Neighborhood reinvestment project featured in Delta Business Journal

April 7th, 2016 Comments Off on Baptist Town Neighborhood reinvestment project featured in Delta Business Journal

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By Angela Rogalski | Delta Business Journal

Baptist Town, about a mile east of downtown Greenwood, is a community that is solidly defined by its history and the common bond of its residents. Born in the 1800s, it is one of Greenwood’s oldest African American neighborhoods and is steeped in the rich culture that is the Mississippi Delta. Honeyboy Edwards and Robert Johnson were known to frequent Baptist Town during their lifetimes and it’s written that Edwards called it “the final residence of Robert Johnson” since the legendary Blues singer spent some of his last days in and around Baptist Town.

Today the community is going through a promising re-flourishment as the Baptist Town Neighborhood Reinvestment Project, planned in 2000, is still underway. Emily Roush-Elliott, a social impact architect, has been a long-time participant in the project.

“For the last three years I was an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, which was a wonderful position with the Greenwood, Leflore, Carroll Economic Development Foundation,” Roush-Elliott says. “The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship partners early-career architectural designers with local community development organizations, where they facilitate an inclusive approach to development to create green, sustainable, and affordable communities. And even though I am no longer a Fellow, my work has actually continued. I still do about half-time, but have also had the opportunity to branch out and start my own design-build practice with my husband. So, we’re continuing the work I started as a Fellow most of the time, but also doing other projects as well.”

Roush-Elliott explains that Baptist Town history has deep roots and is very important to the city of Greenwood.

“Baptist Town is a neighborhood and not its own town at all; it’s part of Greenwood,” she explains. “We know that it’s at least 135 years old and is probably one of the first places where African Americans could own property in Mississippi after slavery ended. So, it has a really long history and is very important.”

While Baptist Town isn’t known for its economic wealth and prosperity, Roush-Elliott says it has so much more embedded within its historical core and is rich in many ways other than money.

“When newspapers write about Baptist Town it always makes me cringe, because invariably someone calls it this impoverished neighborhood. And I wish that they would clarify and say economically impoverished, because it is; from a financial and wealth standpoint it struggles, but from every other value standpoint, the more important ones, such as people taking care of each other, community identity and history and culture, it’s incredibly rich. It’s a wonderful neighborhood and has been studied by a lot of different people. Robert Johnson spent time in Baptist Town; part of the movie “The Help” was filmed there, so there’s a lot of tourism attractions to the community, which sometimes is a negative thing.”

In 2000, students from the Carl Small Town Center, which is a community design center out of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture, came over to Baptist Town and worked with the community and did architectural planning studies to determine the primary needs and goals of the neighborhood and come up with solutions.

“That was the beginning of the relationship between the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and the Carl Small Town Center and the Economic Development Foundation here in Greenwood,” Roush-Elliott says. “So years later, they partnered again and students came back and re-studied the neighborhood and created a masterplan with the community; they really specialize in listening and having community engagement sessions.”

The community had some top priorities for Baptist Town, such as rehabbed and new housing; a community center; safer and better-looking entryways; a playground and parks. And all of these things became part of the masterplan.

“The Carl Small Town Center got together with the Greenwood, Leflore, Carroll Economic Development Foundation and applied to Enterprise Community Partners for an Enterprise Rose Fellow and they were awarded that fellow,” she says. “My husband and I had been working on rural development in Tanzania and we were looking to come back to the States and apply the things that we’d learned over there. So, when this opened up, we applied and we got it and we’ve been really working and focusing on Baptist Town since 2013.”

It was a three-year fellowship and with some funding that was already in place, Roush-Elliott, along with the Greenwood partners, was able to accomplish almost the entire masterplan that had been laid out years earlier.

“Five homes were rehabbed and we’re working on a couple of more now,” she says. “We did 11 new affordable homes and sold them to families who lived in the neighborhood for a cost that fit within their budgets. We purchased a building and rehabbed it for a community center that is open. It offers job training now and will offer other things in the future. We did street lights, sidewalks and signage, and landscaping at all of the entryways. We built two parks and one of them includes a playground.”

Roush-Elliott says those are the tangible things the project has been able to accomplish, but more than that are the relationships that have formed between the city and the people who live in Baptist Town.

“We’re most proud of the changes in people’s lives that we’ve seen,” she adds, “the things that the residents have been able to accomplish all on their own. The homeowners who are all first-time buyers, mostly people a little older in age who have never been able to own their own home before, are now doing it and it’s great. And none of it was gifted; they’re buying their homes. Whatever we invested to develop the home is what the mortgage became.”

John Poros was a teacher at the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and part of the original team that began the planning stages of the project in 2000. Today, Poros is the director of the Carl Small Town Center and is still involved with the ongoing improvements.

“The project got started with Fred Carl of Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood,” Poros says. “And Fred brought us (The Mississippi State School of Architecture) to the neighborhood back then and we had an architectural design studio that looked at the neighborhood then and the Carl Small Town Center gave a report on the project, but unfortunately at that time, we couldn’t get any traction with the project.”

Poros says a few years later, when all of the current partners got involved, they began to see the project move forward.

“The masterplan that we came up with actually won a National American Planning Association Award and once that happened we were able to get funding from the Foundation for the Mid- South, which was about $300,000. Then we were able to move forward and start the work in the neighborhood. That’s when I knew that we had to get Emily Roush-Elliott involved, and on behalf of the Carl Small Town Center, I applied for the Enterprise Rose Fellowship.”

Poros said the Center’s involvement with the project is still strong. “We at the Carl Small Town Center have been working with Emily over the past three years, during her Fellowship to help. Right now, we’re partnering with her to get smaller projects done in the neighborhood by bringing students or faculty members in to help. It’s been an incredible experience and really what you love to see if you’re doing community design. When you can really affect people’s lives and see those results, such as the first-time homeowners; it’s great.”

Alice Leflore is a Baptist Town resident and has been for most of her life. She’s also chair of the management board for the Baptist Town Community Development Center.

“Baptist Town is my home and I have lived there for the majority of my life,” Leflore says. “All of us who live there have always wanted to see our neighborhood improved and revived. It’s our home and we knew what it had once been before the deterioration begun in the late 90s and early 2000s. So, I wanted the neighborhood to be improved and to have the same pride, if not more, than it once had.”

Leflore welcomes the changes that she has seen since the project began and hopes that the progress continues.

“One of the things that I love is the fact that for most of the people in the homes, this is the first time they have ever owned their own home,” Leflore says. “And it’s a really wonderful thing for them. Unfortunately, we have had three people to pass away since they moved into their own home, but I am thankful that they died owning that home that they never thought they would. And I’m happy that we’re on our way to accomplishing the things that we set out to accomplish. We are non-profit now at the Center, so we can go after more programs to assist people and get more things started. So, we are moving forward.”

Mississippi State University research center receives national American Planning Association award

March 8th, 2016 Comments Off on Mississippi State University research center receives national American Planning Association award

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The Carl Small Town Center has been awarded the 2016 American Planning Association (APA) Small Town and Rural (STaR) James A. Segedy Award for Outstanding Student Project for its planning work for the community of Houston, Miss.

The Mississippi State University research center hosted a workshop in February 2014 as part of the Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), which served to gather ideas from the Houston community and its leaders about the Tanglefoot Trailhead® in Houston. Houston is the southernmost community along the 44-mile-long Tanglefoot Trail®, a cycling/pedestrian pathway that runs from New Albany south through Pontotoc and Chickasaw Counties. Students helped prepare interactive activities, plans and maps and facilitated group table discussions at the three-day CIRD workshop.

A main goal of the workshop was to create a plan to designate a new pavilion location at the trailhead, as well as lead visitors from the trailhead to Houston’s downtown area and also to connect the trail to the nearby Natchez Trace Parkway.

The planning workshop was themed: “Start Dreaming, Houston…” The result was a swell of momentum to capitalize on the new trail and all its potential for the community.

“Our students gained immeasurable experience in community engagement and developing leadership skills while helping facilitate the design workshop,” said Assistant Director of the Carl Small Town Center Leah Kemp. They also gained exposure to national experts and worked alongside them, which they really enjoyed.”

The center has since designed a pavilion for the site, which is scheduled to be constructed in spring 2016.

“The people of Houston are making big strides to put the workshop plans into action, and we have enjoyed working with them to make it happen,” said Kemp.

The workshop was funded by a 2014 CIRD Award funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and Houston was one of just four communities nationwide to receive the funding.

The James A. Segedy Award is given annually to recognize an outstanding project by a graduate or undergraduate class or individual that addresses a planning issue facing small town or rural areas.

“This award is one of many recent awards that recognizes the work of the Carl Small Town Center to develop and implement design projects for small towns and communities in Mississippi,” said College of Architecture, Art and Design Associate Dean Greg G. Hall, Ph.D., AIA, NCARB. “The Houston planning workshop serves as an example of ways in which the center supports the mission of the university to serve the development of the state through teaching, research and service.”

The award will be presented at the STaR Business Meeting on Sun., April 3 during the National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. The Houston Trailhead project will be highlighted at the meeting and featured in a STaR newsletter article.

The Carl Small Town Center is a nonprofit community design and outreach component of the College of Architecture, Art and Design and its School of Architecture. The research center works to help improve the quality of life and create economic opportunity in small towns by improving their physical environments. For more information on the center, visit

See the story at

See the story in the Mississippi Business Journal.

Carl Small Town Center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese young professionals program

September 11th, 2015 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese young professionals program



Emily Roush-Elliott, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow with Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center, has been selected to participate in the The Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) Program in Osaka, Japan. Roush-Elliot is one of several young professionals around the world selected to participate in this year’s week-long program in September.

Since 1981, the Junior Chamber International Osaka has been inviting 5-10 young people each year who work in a variety of fields all over the world “to encourage mutual understanding and communications beyond national frameworks.” At TOYP, participants discuss, learn and encourage each other on a variety of subjects and learn about Japanese culture.

“I am honored to be selected to participate in TOYP 2015,” said Roush-Elliot. “I am particularly excited about the Designing Society for Equity theme this year. Utilizing design thinking to respond the globe’s most complex social equity challenges is at the core of my work and the work of the organizations I am a part of. I am confident that TOYP will advance my thinking and provide invaluable connections that I can bring back to Mississippi.”

Roush-Elliot will add to the 187 who have attended since the program’s start, including special guests such as Steve Wozniak, the co-Founder of Apple; former presidential aide Roger B. Porter; and Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity. See a full list of past attendees.

Greg G. Hall, associate dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, participated in TOYP in 1994, and described the program as a valuable opportunity to discuss critical issues with colleagues from around the world as well as Japanese business leaders.

“We’re excited that Emily has been invited to participate. Her experience as an architect and her work with the college’s Carl Small Town Center in the Mississippi Delta will provide an especially important viewpoint.”

Roush-Elliot, who holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Science in Design from Arizona State University, began working as a Rose Fellow with the Carl Small Town Center in January 2013 and has been leading the Baptist Town Neighborhood Reinvestment project. During her tenure, she has worked to plan and build a park, playground, streetscapes, signage and community events, as well as open a community center in the Delta community. Additionally, her multi-disciplinary team completed an eleven-unit modular affordable housing project in which low-income families were able to purchase new homes from the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing, utilizing 15-year, 0% interest mortgages.

The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship offers a select few of the nation’s finest, early career architects the opportunity for first-hand training and experience in sustainable community design work. Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center – a research center in the College of Architecture, Art and Design – was one of just four national organizations to receive an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow in 2012.

Carl Small Town Center featured in HUD’s EDGE magazine

August 12th, 2015 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center featured in HUD’s EDGE magazine


First-Time Homeownership with the Baptist Town Cottages

In the historic African American community of Baptist Town in Greenwood, Mississippi, 10 families recently realized the dream of homeownership with Baptist Town Cottages. The preassembled cottages were among the several thousand houses built for families in Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Working with numerous local partners, the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing acquired the Baptist Town Cottages and sold them to families in 2014. The cottages are part of the Baptist Town neighborhood revitalization project, which includes new parks, streetscape improvements, job training, and a community center.

A Proud History, but Lingering Problems

Baptist Town has a rich history stretching back to the post-Civil War era. Residents maintain that their community was one of the first in the Mississippi Delta where freed slaves could own property. Seventy years later, famous blues singers Robert Johnson and David “Honeyboy” Edwards were drawn to the community, based on its reputation as a haven for aspiring musicians who wanted to escape working in the fields. During the 1960s, civil rights groups used Greenwood as a base of operations to reach African Americans in the Mississippi Delta between Memphis and Jackson.

Despite the efforts of civil rights leaders, the city of Greenwood continues to be highly segregated and experiences many of the ills associated with segregation. Fifty percent of the estimated 10,000 African American residents of Greenwood live below the federal poverty level. Cut off from the city’s downtown by railroad tracks and a bayou, the Baptist Town neighborhood needs new investment, particularly quality, affordable housing. Many of Baptist Town’s houses were built for sharecroppers and are now largely dilapidated. A Harvard University survey of 165 homes in Baptist Town found that 136 were substandard.

According to Emily Roush-Elliott, an architectural fellow at Enterprise Community Partners which manages the cottage project, the built environment often reinforces social and economic inequity instead of helping residents. One of the goals of the Baptist Town Cottages is to reverse some of that inequity by providing desperately needed affordable housing and helping residents build financial equity through homeownership.

Baptist Town Cottages

Photograph of eight women in work clothes standing beside newly planted shrubs.
Women from the Ladies in Landscaping program learned new skills by creating a stormwater management garden. Credit: Emily Roush-Elliott

In 2014, the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing installed the first 11 of 26 cottages that the state had donated to Greenwood several years earlier. The Fuller Center selected families, all of whom were first-time homebuyers, based on need and ability to pay. Other partners on the project included the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation (GLCEDF), Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center, and Enterprise Community Partners. The Carl Small Town Center was an early proponent of Baptist Town’s rejuvenation, having created a master plan for the community in 2001. That planning effort led to Greenwood hosting a participant in the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship program, which places architects within development organizations to add value to projects through design.

The homebuyers were required to volunteer for service in the community or provide sweat equity to complete the cottages. Roush-Elliott and the Fuller Center worked with the future occupants to customize certain features of their homes, such as some architectural details, the color scheme, and the location of their cottage on the development site. The homes and their foundations are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and have thick walls built with 2x6s instead of 2x4s. The cottages’ tight building envelope reduces heat transfer to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. As residents finish their first year in their new homes, the energy performance of the buildings will be compared with that of a typical affordable home in Greenwood.

The installation and finishing of the cottages were seen as a “joint investment in both the built environment and human capacity,” says Roush-Elliott, and were used to enhance the job readiness of some Baptist Town residents. Local residents received on-the-job training in carpentry and other building trades as they helped complete the cottages. For work that required technical specialties, the project hired local and minority contractors. Also, Ladies in the Landscaping, a program that helped train eight minority women in landscaping, completed an eco-friendly stormwater management garden.

Achieving Affordability

The homes are affordable to households earning less than 30, 50, 60, or 70 percent of the area median income. The homeowners financed their cottages using no-interest, 15-year mortgages, with average monthly payments ranging from $132 to $159. Through grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, the homeowners received $4,000 in downpayment assistance. Enterprise Community Partners’ Gulf Coast office sponsored homebuying workshops for families that included information on maintaining a home and credit counseling.

The total cost of the project was approximately $600,000, including the $232,477 estimated value of the cottages donated by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. The Fuller Center invested more than $350,000 in the project, which included a $45,000 loan from GLCEDF and grants and donations from local foundations, businesses, and individuals.

The Work Still to be Done

The Baptist Town Cottages are part of the larger Baptist Town Neighborhood Investment (BTNI) project, a collaboration involving GLCEDF, the Fuller Center, and other local organizations. Partners in BTNI, with significant funding from the Walton Family Foundation, have invested in public spaces, improved the walkability and visibility of streetscapes, and built a park designed by local youth. These smaller projects helped build community trust and overcome residents’ concerns about redevelopment promoted by nonresidents, says Roush-Elliott. After those projects were completed, residents became very supportive, she says, and actively helped complete the cottages. Residents now manage Baptist Town Community Development, a nonprofit that oversees the Baptist Town Community Center (which offers educational programs and health and fitness training), the community garden, and Baptist Town Day, an event held annually in October. Resident engagement is crucial to the long-term success of the remaining redevelopment projects — most importantly, installing the 15 remaining cottages.

Read more about the Baptist Town project.

Carl Small Town Center’s Tanglefoot Trail® project featured on WCBI

November 20th, 2014 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center’s Tanglefoot Trail® project featured on WCBI


They gathered at the Tanglefoot Trailhead® in Houston, near what is left of the old depot. A mix of community leaders, economic development officials and specialists in rural design, to talk about how the trail can serve the community.

“The hard work is done, the trail is here, it’s great, people are using it, but now we kind of look at, ok, how do we make this even better?” said Cynthia Nikitin, who is with the Citizens Institute on Rural Design, which picked Houston as one of four towns nationwide to help develop a plan to maximize public spaces.

There are many possibilities for development along Houston’s portion of the 44-mile-long Tanglefoot Trail®, which runs from New Albany south through Pontotoc into Chickasaw County. Options including recreation facilities, public spaces or other community amenities.

One of the main goals is to get visitors from the trailhead to the downtown area. A workshop set for early next year will look at ways to do just that.

MSU students from the Carl Small Town Center will help organize the workshop and will help implement ideas.

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity for them, it’s a real world project that they get to be involved in, they get to see first hand how to interact with community members and produce great results,” said Leah Kemp from the Carl Small Town Center.

Economic development officials say having a plan to draw more people to the trail and the community will benefit everyone.

“We want to develop further businesses, we want to develop the landscapes, so people are attracted into this community, it has much much potential,” said John Walden, chairman of the Chickasaw Development Foundation.

Once plans are finalized, experts will look at options to pay for the projects.

The workshop to gather ideas for development along the Tanglefoot Trail® in Houston is set for mid February.

CAAD research centers receive AIA/MS 2014 Design Awards

November 6th, 2014 Comments Off on CAAD research centers receive AIA/MS 2014 Design Awards

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Women in Construction Training Center (GCCDS)

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Baptist Town Master Plan (CSTC)

On October 16, the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Mississippi) hosted a Design Awards Celebration in Jackson to honor recipients of its Design Awards and Member Awards, as well as newly licensed architects, landscape architects and interior designers in the state.

The two research centers housed in Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art and Design both were honored at the event.

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS) received an Honor Award in the Architecture/New Construction category for the Women in Construction Training Center for the Moore Community House.

Women in Construction is an organization that trains and assists women to get jobs in construction-related fields. Over the years Women in Construction has been a partner with the GCCDS on many projects for homeowners and for the community.

David Perkes, director of the GCCDS said, “It was especially rewarding to work with them to create a work space that embodies their ‘can-do’ culture. Building the project was as important as getting it built, and the completed building is a testament of the capability of the women students, staff and volunteers.”

The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) received a Citation Award in the Master Planning and Urban Design Category for the Baptist Town Master Plan for the Greenwood Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation.

“The award for the Baptist Town Master Plan reaffirms the longterm effort the CSTC has made in its commitment to Greenwood and the Baptist Town neighborhood,” said Leah Kemp, assistant director of the CSTC. “We are starting to see these master plan elements come to life as recent housing has been installed and the community center is under renovation.”

“It is a testament to the School of Architecture’s commitment to ‘community design’ and ‘social justice’ when our research centers are recognized for their amazing outreach work with Design Awards from the AIA Mississippi Chapter,” said Michael Berk, F.L. Crane Professor and director of the School of Architecture. “The work that our centers produce is nothing short of heroic — and the impacts to the communities will be felt for generations.”

The AIA Mississippi Design Awards program is part of the annual program of events, Mississippi Celebrates Architecture, presented by AIA Mississippi. The goal of the program, which also features an Educational Symposium and a Public Outreach and Exhibition, is to promote and celebrate the role of architecture in Mississippi’s culture. The Design Awards program further seeks to encourages design excellence and elevate the quality of architecture and design in the state by recognizing and honoring members’ works of distinction.

Read the story on the MSU website.


Several alumni and friends of the School of Architecture were also honored at the event. See the full list of AIA/MS 2014 Design Awards below.

Honor Awards:
Albert & Associates Architects, P.A.
Charnley-Norwood House Restoration
Mississippi Dept. of Marine Resources
& Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History

• Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects & Engineers, PA
(Architecture/New Construction)
Puckett Machinery Headquarters
Hastings Puckett

• Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
(Architecture/New Construction)
Women in Construction Training Center
Moore Community House

Merit Awards:
JBHM Architecture
(Architecture/New Construction)
Tupelo Aquatics Center
City of Tupelo

• Duvall Decker Architects, P.A.
James H. White Library Renovation
Mississippi Valley State University
Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management
State of Mississippi

• Duvall Decker Architects, P.A.
Mississippi Dept. of Information Technology Services
Cooperative Data Center
Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management
State of Mississippi

• unabridged Architecture

(Architecture/New Construction)
Waveland Business Center
City of Waveland

• WFT Architects, P.A.
Rehabilitation of the Medgar Evers House Museum
Tougaloo College

• WFT Architects, P.A.
Exterior Rehabilitation of the John W. Boddie House
(The Mansion), Phase II
Tougaloo College

• Carl Small Town Center
(Master Planning Urban Design)
Baptist Town Master Plan
Greenwood Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation

• Belinda Stewart Architects, P.A.
(Architecture/New Construction)
Delta Blues Museum Muddy Waters Addition
Delta Blues Museum

National Enterprise Rose Fellows visit Mississippi

March 17th, 2014 Comments Off on National Enterprise Rose Fellows visit Mississippi

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Mississippi State hosted the national Enterprise Rose Fellows on Tuesday, March 4.

Fifty current and past fellows met in the Baptist Town neighborhood of Greenwood, current fellow Emily Roush Elliott’s project location.

(Elliott is co-hosted for her three-year stint in Greenwood by the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation and the Carl Small Town Center of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State).

Afterwards, the current fellows headed to Starkville to work with Elliot’s class – co-taught with Leah Faulk Kemp, assistant director for the Carl Small Town Center – and present their projects before a larger group of MSU architecture students.

A “Fat Tuesday Feast” was held after the presentations for the fellows, faculty and students.

See the photos.

Good year for Baptist Town project leader

January 13th, 2014 Comments Off on Good year for Baptist Town project leader


The architecture fellow heading the Baptist Town Project said she’s had a productive first year on the job in 2013 despite some major setbacks.

Emily Roush Elliott said she hopes to continue making tangible progress in 2014 while also broadening the scope of her work. She’ll be co-teaching a course at Mississippi State University this coming semester.

Elliott, an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, is co-hosted for her three-year stint in Greenwood by the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation and the Carl Small Town Center of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State.

Elliott said her first year of the fellowship, awarded by Enterprise Community Partners Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit design company, focused almost exclusively on executing work in the Baptist Town neighborhood of Greenwood.

Starting this week, Elliott will be commuting to Starkville as well, where she’ll co-teach a course on community design with Leah Kemp, the assistant director of the Carl Small Town Center. Elliott said the course will focus on giving students real-world experience in using design to improve the quality of life in one Mississippi small town.

The Carl Small Town Center, which focuses on rural design and planning, is named for Fred Carl Jr., the founder and former CEO of Viking Range Corp. Carl endowed the center with a $2.5 million gift in 2003.

Elliott said the CREATE Foundation, a Tupelo-based nonprofit dedicated to regional development in Northeast Mississippi, provides a grant to the Carl Small Town Center to teach the class. This year, CREATE asked Elliott and Kemp to choose a community along the new Tanglefoot Trail, a 43-mile rails-to-trails project.

“We biked the trail, which was super fun, and ended up choosing a town called New Houlka,” Elliott said. “It’s a really small community. I don’t know much about it yet, but they’ve been really receptive to us.”

Over the course of the semester, the students in Elliott’s course will focus on getting to know the residents of New Houlka and creating designs to address their needs. Elliott said that in years past, the end result was usually a book of plans, sketches and blueprints for the town to implement on its own.

Although Elliott said compiling designs will play a role this year, she’s hoping the students get their hands dirty and actually carry out one of their recommendations.

“What we’re doing differently this year is that we’re saying, especially in these really small towns, (a book of plans) is often not enough to get people going,” Elliott said. “What we’re going to try to do is see if we can get a little energy going and hopefully give students a little more hands-on experience. As we’re getting these big ideas, we’re also getting small ideas, and we’re going to pick one and implement it.”

The project the students tackle, Elliott said, might not even fall into what most people consider architectural. It may be something as small as repainting New Houlka’s fire hydrants with a vibrant new design that brings a little life to the town.

Elliott calls that “doing something real,” a mantra she’s also brought to her work on the Baptist Town Project. Elliott said the Economic Development Foundation has had a master plan, produced by the Carl Small Town Center, on file since 2010 but hadn’t made many steps toward turning those lofty ideas into tangible results.

When she came on board at the beginning of the year, Elliott soon learned that the grant funding for the project, provided by the Foundation for the Mid-South, was set to expire in July 2013.

“I started Jan. 1 thinking I was going to do new housing, rehab housing, build a community center, parks, entryways and infrastructure over my three years,” Elliott said. “It turned out all the funding I’d gotten for that was over the first six months.”

Elliott said she realized she’d have to focus all her energies on completing one aspect of the project and quickly zeroed in on using donated Katrina cottages as affordable housing units in the historic but largely impoverished neighborhood in Greenwood.

Elliott said it was extremely difficult when a number of setbacks, including the failure of a bill in the Legislature to allow the city of Greenwood to donate the cottages, resulted in the Economic Development Foundation losing the grant and the project being delayed.

Elliott didn’t give up on the cottages project and continues to work toward getting it back on track. She said, however, the last thing she wanted to do was sit around and do nothing after that idea hit roadblocks.

So she set to work and has been busy building new sidewalks and putting up new street signs and neighborhood entrance markers in Baptist Town. Five MSU architecture students came to Greenwood in May.

Working with Brantley Snipes, a landscape architect and the executive director of Main Street Greenwood, they designed and built a small “pocket park” at the corner of McCain Street and Stevens Avenue. In October, volunteers from GE Capital built a new playground in a park on Avenue A that Elliott planned with extensive input from neighborhood children.

“We got a lot accomplished,” Elliott said. “There are some very visible signs of progress that continue to happen in Baptist Town.”

As her fellowship continues, Elliott said she hopes to effect further improvements in Baptist Town but also broaden the focus of her work. Working with the Carl Small Town Center, Elliott would like to look at projects in other areas of South Greenwood, to work with other towns in the state facing similar issues and possibly even partner with state agencies to improve the design of low-income housing developments.

“A lot of people think being a good-looking place is just about aesthetics, but, especially at a neighborhood or city scale, it’s a lot more than that,” Elliott said. “It’s about inspiring people to spend their money there, buy houses there or live there at all.”

Carl Small Town Center continues making a difference in the Delta

December 3rd, 2013 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center continues making a difference in the Delta

Photo via MSU website

Photo via MSU website

By Leah Barbour | MSU Office of Public Affairs

A spirit of cross-state cooperation is causing big things to happen in a little place.

To improve quality of life in Greenwood’s Baptist Town neighborhood, Mississippi State University faculty members and students have been working over the past three years with the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, the city of Greenwood, Jackson-based Foundation for the Mid-South, and Arkansas’ Walton Family Foundation.

Famous for housing blues legend Robert Johnson and well-known actor Morgan Freeman, Baptist Town is a historic African-American neighborhood is located in east Greenwood. Despite its rich cultural history, Baptist Town, like so many small communities in the Delta, faces high unemployment and rising crime rates.

Most recently, Baptist Town gained national attention during production of “The Help,” a 2011 film based on a best-selling novel of the same name. The story of 1960s Mississippi civil rights struggles told through the eyes of African-American maids was shot largely in Greenwood and the surrounding area.

Today, the commitment by the MSU’s Carl Small Town Center and its other partners is causing Baptist Town revitalization efforts to be realized.

The center — the research and service arm of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design — is named for Fred Carl Jr., a Greenwood native and former Viking Range Corp. owner whose major support made the CSTC possible.

CSTC was recognized with the 2011 Outstanding Student Project award of the American Planning Association for the 2010 master plan developed for Baptist Town. In 2012, the center was one of only four organizations selected to host a national Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow.

Emily Roush Elliott was chosen to implement the major components of the award-winning Baptist Town master plan.

Elliott holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati, and she has worked with the MSU’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. The studio was established in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild Mississippi’s coastal communities.

John Poros, CSTC director, said the Baptist Town plan identified key needs as affordable and functional housing, safer public spaces and improved infrastructure. He and other CSTC representatives have been working closely with Elliott as she collaborates directly with neighborhood residents.

“One thing that we’ve completed recently in Baptist Town is the pocket park,” said Leah Kemp, CSTC assistant director. “The park is really a system of concrete pavers, a gravel path that goes through the park, and a series of benches made out of concrete posts and railroad ties.”

Poros said the park is located adjacent to the film home of Help main character “Minnie.” The location one of the few Baptist Town public spaces where residents may sit and talk. Other improvements include additional lighting and sidewalks, and new signage, he said.

Poros and Kemp praised Elliott for making significant progress toward meeting the master plan’s major goals: improved housing and a new community center. In addition to coordinating mortgage opportunities for prospective homeowners, they said Elliot is working with subcontractors to begin foundation construction and is coordinating all project efforts directly with the city and city-owned Greenwood Utilities.

Kemp said that, while the actual Baptist Town park design was provided by a Greenwood landscape architect, MSU architecture majors worked on all aspects of construction, including grating, digging, shoveling and pouring concrete and gravel, as well as bench building.

Poros said the park is lighted, so residents may use it during the evening.

“That’s pretty important because there’s not another place in the neighborhood like that,” he said. “The lighting is supplied by the city of Greenwood, and they’ll also be doing the landscaping at the park.”

Poros said grants from the Jackson and Arkansas foundations paid for construction materials while the CSTC provided funding to cover student labor. Several neighborhood residents, including children, also pitched in to help, he added.

“It’s really important for architecture students to understand how difficult it is to do construction, understand all the planning that has to happen in order to do a simple construction project and understand all the steps that have to be done for something as simple as this little project,” Poros said. “It’s also really important for students to get directly involved in communities and do something like this. It’s really their responsibility as professionals, and as students and alumni of Mississippi State, to get involved wherever they are.”

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