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Group tries to reinvigorate downtown Greenville

By DOMINICK CROSS

Delta Democrat Times

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - They came home again. This time for

good.

And now that they're here, they want to do something to bring

back the downtown they remember from their youth.

As individuals, call them driven; as an organization, call them

the Walnut Street Blues Project (WSBP). They're throwing parties to

lure visitors to downtown Greenville.

"We want to have a monthly block party with several bands and

try to raise money for a good cause, such as the American Cancer

Society or the American Heart Association," said WSBP member Nolan

Andrews.

In addition to monthly concerts, Andrews said the WSBP will

"try to have a large annual or biannual event with a national or

regional act."

Still, there's more to the WSBP fete than to net funds for

charities or bring free, live entertainment to downtown.

"We're trying to do something to get this place going again,"

Andrews said.

The "we" Andrews refers to consists of professional men and

women who've returned to Greenville after living away, as well as

downtown business owners and concerned locals who want to see their

town return to its vibrant days.

The nonprofit has also garnered the support of the Greenville

and Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main

Street Greenville.

The WSBP consists of Will Ayres, Ken Isben, Stephen Provenza,

Danny Peeples, David Weiss, Frankie Painter, James Shoffner, Doug

Haywood and Parker England.

"We've lost a lot of commercial business and we're trying to

attract commercial business. And one of the first things they're

going to look at is how the downtown is doing," England said.

"Because, whether it be a correct concept or not, everybody says,

'The city thrives as the downtown thrives.'

"And right now, our downtown is a little desolate," he said.

"Empty buildings and everything is the first thing they see when

they come downtown - there's no crowd, there's empty buildings and

broken windows - who'd want to move here with that?"

England said a revitalized downtown should not only bring in

more businesses and people, but it could catch the eye of outside

businesses looking to relocate.

"When they see a little more lively downtown, they may be more

interested in moving here," he said. "They may want to bring jobs

here, build facilities here."

Like a lot of small cities across the country, Greenville

experienced an exodus of its young people.

"Once they go away, they tend not to come back except for

Thanksgiving, family reunions and class reunions and stuff like

that," England said. "In the past five years, we have had

probably 20 to 30 young couples move back home."

England said some of those returnees went to work for a family

business, while others found other forms of employment.

"And with this big influx of younger people, anywhere from 25

to 40, comes a little bit more of an idea that, 'Hey, we've got a

good group here that we can actually do something to help out

Greenville and help businesses and the nightlife itself.'

"So, really, it's just a group of individuals that just have a

burning to make Greenville the way it used to be, the way it was

when we grew up," England said. "People were everywhere,

businesses were everywhere and we had a thriving economy."

Andrews agreed.

"It was once a hopping town and we moved back here to plant our

roots and raise families," he said. "We don't want to live in a

dying city - we'd like to live in a place that actually has

potential."

---

Information from: Delta Democrat Times, http://www.ddtonline.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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