February 1, 2016
Main Street Clinton is an organization aimed at creating downtown Clinton, Miss., a place students want to be.
“When our program first started in 2007, the goal with Main Street was to revitalize our downtown. We do that through events and bringing life to our downtown, but part of our role also is to recruit businesses and beautification,” said Tara Lytal, director of Main Street Clinton.
When the program began in 2007, many of the buildings were vacant, but only four spaces remain unused. The organization is now making efforts to get the last few spaces occupied with new retail and restaurants.
The process is made possible in part by two grant programs that provide businesses help getting started. Main Street raises money for a “facade grant” that they give to business to improve the presence of their store. The front deck and handicap ramp of Cups was funded by the grant in 2008. More recently, the signage outside of Paxton Peak was made possible by the grant, as well as much of the renovation for Brick Street Pops and the Bufkin Building on Clinton Boulevard.
The other part of the program is a business development grant. This goes to help business bring their buildings to code and add other vital restorations. Meme’s Bakery in the Potter House used the grant to add a hood vent to their kitchen.
Still, Main Street has “had trouble giving that money away,” Lytal said. “We have a couple of property owners who own a majority of the property,” she said, “the main one being a guy out of Texas.”
This particular owner owns the entire strip next door to city hall aside from Pentimento’s book store, The Potter House, the Wood House, and another house downtown. The property owner’s disconnection to the community has created some trouble for Main Street’s progress.
Others have been more eager and present to help Main Street Clinton achieve their goal. Clay Mansell has owned many businesses over the last few years, and currently owns the Clinton Courier and other small town newspapers. When the building on the corner of Monroe and Leake Street became available, he wanted the space for his offices and bought it. He didn’t need all the space for offices, so, working with Lytal, Mansell created Brick Street Pops.
“In order for Main Street to thrive, we must fill it up with retail, boutiques and restaurants. If we continue to [fill it with] more lawyers, CPA’s, etc, it will kill the area,” Mansell said.
“People perceive that this is the cheapest rent in town,” said Lytal, “and that does have some validity to it.” However, Main Street’s strategy is to recruit restaurants and retail, and she’s not afraid to tell those who don’t fall under that category, “you need to be on the perimeter.” If it’s just going to be used as office space, she said, “you could be anywhere.”
A couple blocks away, new development has promised to bring additional retail and restaurant space. Property owner Dave Riley owns the building that houses Brick Street Pops, which is fully occupied, and the building currently in construction next to it. In the new building, around 5,000 square feet of space will be available. Lytal said they’ve sent several prospects to Riley looking for space to open new stores.
Students at MC, as well as Clinton residents, benefit from the grants and individuals who are investing in the development of Old Towne. Main Street Clinton has made great strides over the past several years, and their continued progress is not to be missed.
-Will Hawks, Contributing Writer
this article appeared in Vol. 97, Issue 7 of The Mississippi Collegian