Hattiesburg honored at Alabama – Mississippi Chapters of the American Planning Association Conference
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) -Hattiesburg was honored during the 2022 conference for the Alabama – Mississippi Chapters of the American Planning Association.
One such award honored Dr. Richard Conville, a longtime member of the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment, as a “Planning Advocate.”
The Planning Advocate Award is for an individual, appointed or elected official, who has advanced or promoted the cause of planning in the public arena.
“Dr. Richard Conville embodies the definition of what it means to give of oneself solely to benefit the community in which he lives,” said Urban Development Director Wiley Quinn.
Conville was invited to take part in the Planning Commission in 1996. Since his appointment, he has attended more than 300 planning commission meetings and served as the chair of the committee for many years.
His award nomination stated, “His engaging commentary and critical mind are invaluable to the community as a commissioner. The institutional knowledge he brings to the commission proves to be useful in every meeting.”
Conville’s involvement in the Planning Commission included assisting in all major planning documents produced for the City of Hattiesburg since 1996. He has also served as a member of the Vision Advisory Team for the 2008-2028 Comprehensive Plan, a member of the Leadership Team for the Midtown Development Project (2010) and the currency Land Development Code for Hattiesburg (2017).
“While continuing to serve our community as a member of the Planning Commission, he has further volunteered his time in service as a valued member of the Board of Adjustment,” Quinn added. “It is a pleasure to know that a man with a heart to see growth, development, and continuing education in our community is honored in such a manner as this.”
Conville worked as a professor of communication studies at the University of Southern Mississippi for 35 years. He led the university’s efforts in fostering student engagement and civic values for over 15 years and has been active in the promotion of service learning as a discipline.
“It has been an honor to work with Dr. Conville on both boards,” said Division Manager for Planning Ginger Lowrey. “Every month we look forward to the results of his sharp eye on an application, his feedback on the appropriateness of a request in the context of our community, and to learn from his years of experience in these roles.”
Conville was surprised by the APA honor and designation.
“I received the award on behalf of the dozens of Hattiesburg citizen-volunteers who serve our community,” said Conville. “It feels good to be appreciated, and it energizes me to continue to devote time, energy and care to make Hattiesburg better than I found it.”
Conville also helped establish the University Heights Neighborhood Association in 1999. It remains an active neighborhood association in the City of Hattiesburg.
Hattiesburg was also given the “Great Public Space” award for the collaboration that brought the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum Alley to life.
“Every year our APA chapter recognizes public spaces that exemplify how the built environment can foster culturally important spaces,” said Lowrey. “It is an honor to have the entire alley of the pocket museum awarded as A Great Place by planners throughout our state.”
The alley became the focus of a creative project in 2020.
As an underutilized space in the heart of Downtown Hattiesburg, Hattiesburg Convention Commission Executive Director Rick Taylor and wife Vicki Taylor, along with Mayor Toby Barker and a trusted team of city and commission employees, initiated a plan for creative placemaking. In its simplest form, the project included cleaning up the alley and making it a walkable, enjoyable space – a deceivingly simple idea.
The community saw an opportunity in the opening months of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. When the Hattiesburg Convention Commission had to shutter the doors of the Saenger due to gathering restrictions, they found an opportunity to turn the alley into a way for residents and visitors alike to escape the isolation of health-related restrictions and enjoy both surprise and delight.
Around the same time, after the natural gas provider finished replacing gas lines in Downtown Hattiesburg, the city paved the full alley and closed it to vehicular traffic. This included the City working with neighboring property owners to change access patterns for sanitation pickup. A faux brick pattern was stamped into many of the areas of the alley, which encourages foot traffic while adding historical character. This part of the project was completed by late summer 2020.
These collaborations, along with key structural and environmental updates, allowed for a blank canvas for artists to display their work.
The City worked with HCC to install picnic tables to support existing businesses and outdoor dining options. In the Spring of 2021, string lighting was also added overhead.
Now, on a slow week, the Alley tracks approximately 3,000 visitors – on a busy one, 7,000.
The Pocket Museum is the only “small museum” in the South listed on Roadtripper.com’s list of eight best small museums in the United States. The attraction and alley have also been mentioned in national publications like Southern Living Magazine, The Washington Post and more.
“Many players in the community came together and turned an eye sore and a community crisis into an opportunity to make a public space more useable,” Lowrey added. “More than usable, it is a thriving, blossoming space that gives back to the community. Most visitors are repeat visitors, as much of the art and installations are temporary and rotate to something new each month.”
To learn more about the museum and its alley, visit hattiesburgpocketmuseum.com.
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