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

http://caad.msstate.edu/wpmu/sarcnews/cstc-tanglefoot-wcbi/

Via 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.

MSU’s Carl Small Town Center to receive CIRD workshop funding

October 24th, 2014 Comments Off on MSU’s Carl Small Town Center to receive CIRD workshop funding

Via Leah Barbour | MSU Public Affairs

When Chickasaw County community leaders contacted Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center, they wanted to discuss ways to connect the Tanglefoot Trail® to downtown Houston and the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The CSTC is the service and research arm of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design, and the center works with officials, citizens and organizations to improve quality of life in towns throughout the Magnolia State, said Leah Kemp, CSTC assistant director.

Houston is the southernmost community along the Tanglefoot Trail, she explained. At present, the end of the 44-mile, rails-to-trails cycling/pedestrian pathway is a vacant lot, but Houston leaders want to change that.

“There is currently no way for cyclists to get from the trail to the nearby downtown or the Trace,” Kemp said.

CSTC leaders chose to apply for a competitive Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design workshop funding, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, because connecting Houston’s tourist attractions should boost tourism and benefit neighborhoods, Kemp said. In late July, the CSTC learned Houston was one of only four communities in the nation to receive the award, which will enable CSTC to host a rural design technical workshop this fall for the town.

“We and our partners in Houston recognize that this area has wonderful potential; we also recognize that this CIRD program will provide the necessary expertise that Houston needs,” she said.

The CIRD funding will fund a two-and-a-half day workshop in Houston, with CIRD providing design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000, according to CIRD officials. The CSTC-Houston team will receive additional training, both before and after the workshop, through conference calls, webinars and other web-based resources. Topics include community engagement, rural design, partnership development and workshop planning.

CIRD is a National Endowment for the Arts initiative that collaborates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Project for Public Spaces, Inc.; the Orton Family Foundation; and the CommunityMatters Partnership to sponsor design experts’ work in rural communities.

To qualify for the CIRD funding, towns must have populations fewer than 50,000; only two towns and two counties were selected. The Mississippi community is the only one in the Southeast, and it’s the smallest–only 3,562 residents. Other funding recipients are located in Franklin, New Hampshire; Oregon County, Missouri; and Lancaster County, Nebraska.

“The selected communities demonstrate rich potential for leveraging partnerships to take action on a wide range of rural design issues,” said Cynthia Nikitin, CIRD program director and senior vice president of project for Public Spaces, Inc. “Rural design is a valuable tool for citizens to use to build on existing assets and improve their community’s quality of life and long-term viability.

“The workshop will provide national experts in design-related fields that can help develop a tangible vision for how to connect the trail to the downtown, as well as provide a way that Houston can bring economic development to its town by capitalizing on the trail.”

For more information about the CSTC, visit carlsmalltowncenter.org.

Learn more about CIRD at www.rural-design.org.

Carl Small Town Center to host design seminar for public officials

February 17th, 2014 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center to host design seminar for public officials

cstc-red-logoThe Carl Small Town Center (CSTC), a research center housed within the School of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University, is hosting a “Design for Public Officials” seminar.

The event, which is open to all North Mississippi public officials and persons interested in improving their communities, will focus on the value of good design for towns located in the state’s Hills and Delta regions. It will be held at The Inn at Ole Miss in Oxford on Mon., March 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The seminar will provide public officials with useful and applicable knowledge, including the tools to become advocates of good design for their communities. Attendees will also learn what’s needed to be successful in planning and economic development projects for tourism, recreation and job recruitment.

Topics will include the value of good design, transportation, rural sustainability, and creative economy and tourism.

Speakers will be Bob Barber, former planner for the city of Hernando; Heather Deutsch, bicycle program specialist with the District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.; John Poros, rural sustainability expert and director of the CSTC; and Kennedy Smith, community development and revitalization expert with the Community Land Use and Economics Group out of Arlington, Va.

Attendees will earn two Certified Municipal Official (CMO)) credits. The registration fee is $30 before March 14 or $45 after March 14.  Lunch is included in the workshop.

Public officials also are encouraged to bring ideas and information about their local projects to discuss with panelists during the project sharing session.

For more information about the seminar, contact Leah Faulk Kemp at 662-325-2304 or cstcinfo@caad.msstate.edu. For more information about the CSTC, visit carlsmalltowncenter.org.

Get the registration form here.

Read the story on MSU’s website.

Good year for Baptist Town project leader

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

Via wtva.com

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.”

CSTC well represented at American Planning Association national conference

April 25th, 2013 Comments Off on CSTC well represented at American Planning Association national conference

John Poros presents on rural sustainability at the APA national conference in Chicago.

John Poros recently presented a session on his research on rural sustainability at the American Planning Association’s national conference. The conference was held on April 15th in Chicago, Ill.

Poros is the associate professor in the School of Architecture at Mississippi State and the director of Carl Small Town Center (CSTC), a nonprofit community design and outreach component of the School.

Poros’ session was attended by more than 200 participants and was selected as the Small Town and Rural Planning session for the year.

Leah Kemp also presented at the conference’s poster session.

The poster was titled “Baptist Town Neighborhood Revitalization.” Kemp serves as the assistant director of the CSTC and presented recent work the center has done to help the Greenwood neighborhood.

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