Case studies provide examples as Troy develops downtown

Published 3:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fairhope, Decatur, Florence and Opelika were just a few of the Alabama downtowns that City of Troy officials have studied to help come up with a plan to revitalize downtown Troy. But one of the most comparable downtown models to study actually lies outside of the state in Oxford, Mississippi.

The Oxford downtown is thriving, and the case study shows it has more 30 restaurants and bars, apartments and condos, and several entertainment venues. But it hasn’t always been that way.

“I spoke to the mayor of Oxford,” Mayor Jason Reeves told citizens at the city’s first downtown planning meeting. “He said that there was a time when he could have fired a gun straight across the square and not hit anybody.”

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And by his logic, if Oxford can experience that kind of growth, why can’t Troy?

Reeves said Troy has an advantage over Oxford. “The county courthouse is still in the middle of the Oxford Square, whereas Troy moved the courthouse years ago,” he said. “The mayor told me ‘I could do so much if that courthouse wasn’t there.’”

The main reason that Oxford strikes such a close similarity to Troy is its downtown Square. The Oxford downtown is also in close proximity to the University of Mississippi, much like the Troy’s downtown is situated near Troy University.

Of course, not everything that works for Oxford will work for Troy and vice versa. It was just one of many downtowns used as a springboard for ideas on how downtown could grow, and those case studies will be explored during the upcoming downtown revitalization planning meetings.

“We already have a successful downtown,” said Melissa Sanders, Troy planning and zoning administrator. “You can go downtown and see its vibrancy. This plan is just about taking it to the next level, to keep the momentum going and growing for our downtown. With the case studies, we wanted to see what things have worked in other downtowns and see how we might be able to do those things.”

Every downtown that the study looked at had a university within 10 miles and most had a median household income in the $30,000-$40,000 range, similar to Troy’s median household income of $32,000. Those numbers are somewhat skewed, of course, by the number of no-income or low-income college students. That’s especially true for Troy, as Troy University students make up about a third of the city’s population.

Tracey Delaney of South Central Alabama Development Commission (SCADC), who helped the city conduct studies, said that even little things about downtowns can greatly affect the mood.

“You might think that detailed bricks might not be much of an improvement to a downtown,” she said. “But once you get enough of those bricks together it makes a big difference to the look of the area.”

Some common assets of the other downtowns studied include architectural traffic lights, pedestrian signals and wayfinding, a system of signs and maps that direct people to and around downtown.

The city has already conducted a study about wayfinding that was presented at the first planning meeting alongside the case studies.

Another thing that was listed on each case study was organizational support, including both municipal and private organizations that are involved in making their downtown areas successful. Many of those organizations are already active downtown for Troy, including several municipal buildings, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center and more.

Sanders said that Troy residents will have the opportunity to give more feedback on what features they like about each downtown at the next planning meeting, which will be held at The Studio July 7 at 5 p.m. City officials are compiling the information provided by residents at the first meeting to expand on what residents want.

The next meeting will be more hands-on and will give citizens the opportunity to review preliminary renderings by KPS group on what proposed changes might look like, among other pieces presented by KPS and SCADC.

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