In June 2009, local developer Jay Estes, working with officials from the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Petal, drew up a blueprint for a long-term redevelopment plan for downtown Petal, particularly the areas of Main Street and Central Avenue. Although officials weren’t able to kickstart that plan right away, now may just be the time – and the chamber is looking for feedback from all sectors. To that end, the chamber will host a meeting from 4:30-6 p.m. on Jan. 11 in the Magnolia Room at Petal Civic Center on South Main Street, where participants will be encouraged to discuss ideas and concerns.
“(We and Estes) just took a look at that plan and decided it was a good time to redevelop that plan,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “(The original plan) was very ambitious, and it was wonderful, but things have changed tremendously. “At the time, a lot of those projects and plans were out of our reach, but we’ve come a long way since 2009. So as a chamber, as a city, as individuals and business owners, we just felt like it’s time to go back and see what we had talked about doing several years ago and put it into a context that makes sense for today.”
Business owners, property owners, and interested citizens are invited to the meeting to give their input on what they want to see for the downtown area. “Let’s take a look at what we want – is it the same thing we were looking at several years ago, or have those plans changed or altered?” Wilson said. “I know that so many discussions have already been held, and it’s important for people to have accessibility in downtown, meaning nice sidewalks and a way to get from Point A to Point B without having to drive. “(There’s) beautification efforts, which may include some underground wires – taking some of our poles and above-ground wiring and putting it underground. That’s a tremendously expensive project, but something that we should look at. Why not see if it’s a possibility, and put it on our wish list for the future?”
Other projects may include façade improvements at downtown businesses or business incubators in the area. “It’s wide open,” Wilson said. One of the significant aspects of Estes’ original plan was a mixed use-development at the vacant lot next to Subway on West Central Avenue. Ideas for that site included a combination of apartments and retail space and a community area that could host events such as fairs and festivals. “In all these years, that area has not been developed yet,” Wilson said. “It’s still sitting there, so it’s a good time to take a look at it.
“Also, it’s a good time to take a look at what we consider downtown Petal, and what our alternatives are. Especially now, there are several builds and funds available for communities. It’s a good time to see what may be available to our community.”
Wilson said positive things are already underway in Petal – such as the vacant Rite Aid building recently being purchased by Dollar Tree – and she wants residents to know what a good position the city is in currently. “Many, many small towns and communities are dying – they’re withering on the vine,” she said. “If they weren’t already, then COVID might have hit them hard.
“In contrast, Petal is doing well, and we continue to grow; we continue to have businesses as well as individuals investing in Petal. Great public/private partnerships are coming together, so we’re on the horizon of some really good times. I think it’s important for us to have a plan in place and at least a set of priorities, for us to work with (everyone) to see what’s most important, and prioritize, and spend very carefully.
Story By Haskel Burns. Photos by Cayla Camp Burns