Downtown Hattiesburg merchants support upcoming developments

There's a lot of buzz surrounding the new living and business developments in downtown Hattiesburg. Any new risks or challenges that could come with the major change is set aside by merchant, city and county leader's enthusiasm.

"Well, there is a risk in anything you do in life," said Hub City Lofts Developer, Rob Tatum.

Tatum understands concerns downtown merchants have about transforming the American and Carter buildings into live and work spaces.

"There is risk in anything. We feel like our prices are going to be fair. We are delivering two different options for people to live in, two different buildings,"said Tatum.

One of the first questions of the meeting was parking. Odd Fellows building and gallery owner, Charles Price doesn't feel it's a major issue.

"Parking seems to be adequate, going forward that is something we will just have to address," said Price.

Forrest County Board of Supervisors President, David Hogan agrees.

"Actually, there is plenty of parking downtown. It's not necessarily in the best location, and there are studies being done. The city and the business owners here are working on proposals, and I believe some of the concerns will be addressed," said Hogan.

Hattiesburg Director of Engineering Bert Kuyrkendall explained the traffic plan to the merchants. The plan is meant to create more parking spaces, and create a pedestrian friendly environment by slowing down traffic to as low as 25 miles per hour. Brownstones Owner Mitch Brown is optimistic.

"As a business owner down here I don't mind that. I can tell you that other cities are doing this and it has been very successful," said Brown.

A sentiment most merchants and city leaders seem to share.

"You look at the room this morning, and someone said it is a room of courageous people. Well, it's a room of people who have a shared vision. That vision is to see the downtown Hattiesburg area transform into a new urban environment, where you have people who live, work and play all in the same place," said Hattiesburg City Council Vice President, Dave Ware.

"We really do feel optimistic that we're delivering the right project at the right time," said Tatum.

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