Laurel, Hattiesburg downtown developers hoping for big 2017

Laurel, Hattiesburg downtown developers hoping for big 2017

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Downtown developers in Laurel and Hattiesburg are celebrating a successful 2016 and looking forward to more growth in 2017.

In Laurel, 16 downtown buildings were sold and eight new businesses opened this year.

A long-awaited downtown lighting project was also completed.

Judi Holifield, executive director of Laurel Main Street, said annual events like "Touch a Truck" and the "Loblolly Festival" should continue to bring in visitors in 2017.

She also said other activities and projects are in the works.

"We're going to celebrate Mississippi's Bicentennial as a town," Holifield said. "We've met on that and begun to get some things going for that and we're also looking at a Pine Cone Drop for next New Year's Eve."

Holifield said she expects the new HGTV series, "Hometown," which debuts in March, to have a positive impact on the entire city of Laurel.

That series, which has wrapped up shooting on season one, stars Laurel business owners Ben and Erin Napier.

In Hattiesburg, seven new businesses opened downtown this year.

30 new parking spaces were added and trolley service was expanded.

Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, said there are plans to add pedestrian kiosks at various locations downtown, as part of a new wayfinding project.

And, she said steps are being taken to create a downtown conservation district.

"It says a lot about the vibrancy of downtown," said Saffle. "I think that it does show that downtown Hattiesburg is continuing to grow and revitalize and re-invent itself."

Saffle also said the popular spring "Live at Five" concert series will expand to the fall as well.