OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Across America, downtowns are back.
That was the encouraging message delivered in Ocean Springs Tuesday from the president of the National Main Street Center. She was the keynote speaker at the Destination Downtown conference.
Patrice Frey told conference participants there is a downtown renaissance happening across the country. But it didn't happen by accident. It is the result of long term planning and hard work.
Ocean Springs is hosting the regional conference because of the city's longtime successful downtown development and award winning Main Street program.
"We know in Ocean Springs our beautiful live oak trees make a great difference. People love to come where green brings green. Because it's comfortable. There's a beautiful tree canopy. We have unique shops," said Mayor Connie Moran, as she welcomed the participants to her city.
The president of the National Main Street Center says the future of downtown development is encouraging. She pointed to a trend that shows more people are interested in living downtown.
"There's a bit of a shift going on in the American public. Which is away from a preference towards living in unwalkable, often suburban places. More towards living and working and playing in more walkable, more mixed use places," said Patrice Frey.
Main Street programs rely on developing public-private partnerships. But while there are some fundamentals with the approach to developing downtowns, every city is unique.
A highly successful facade program a few years ago sparked a renewed interest in development in downtown Gulfport, which has since become a popular spot for restaurants and nightlife.
Bob Wilson is the executive director of the Mississippi Main Street program.
"Every community has its own personality, its own characteristics. Different assets. Different challenges. So Main Street is really an approach to downtown revitalization and deals with all those issues that are unique to every community," he says.
"It takes a little work digging around and finding the funding. But most of all, just getting people onboard, saying, 'Hey, this is us. This is who we are. Welcome. Welcome to our downtown. To our community,'" said Mayor Moran.