HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County can move forward with creating a river district after the passage of House Bill 1649 by the Mississippi Legislature.
The development district will be located along the Bouie and Leaf rivers where the two cities connect.
“We want both sides of the river to be an economically viable destination,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said. “We both have a shared interest in what happens either on the Hattiesburg side and the Petal side.”
The decision comes just as each city is planning their budget for the next fiscal year.
“The next step will be when each entity sets their budget for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st,” Barker said. “So the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, City of Hattiesburg and the City of Petal will decide how much of the ad valorem that comes from that area will be invested into that area.”
The first project along the river will be the re-purposing of the East Hardy Street bridge after a new bridge is built to the south.
“A lot of structural integrity, a lot of character to that bridge, turning that into a pedestrian way that can connect the two cities as well as possibly a destination of itself that can be seen right there on the river,” Barker said.
Barker says Hattiesburg will look to extend the Longleaf Trace along the river and that Petal is interested in improvements to the River Park.
“We tried to get parcels on both sides of those, tried to listen to both the county and City of Hattiesburg stakeholders, City of Petal stakeholders, so I think there’s something there that over time can benefit both cities,” Barker said.
Barker added that a combination of residential, recreational and commercial projects will happen within the district.