Downtown lights, Haven work add to area impression

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 20, 2008

An area that made a good “First Impression” on a team ofcommunity assessment visitors has gotten even more impressive inrecent days.

Last week saw two significant improvements to Brookhaven’sdowntown, an area that received overwhelmingly positive comments inthe recently completed “First Impressions” survey.

New, retro-style lights, which are in line with those in frontof The Inez and on the Mississippi School of the Arts campus, wereerected along South Railroad and Whitworth avenues and therefurbished Haven sign and marquee were restored to their placeatop the theater building on West Cherokee Street. The sign, withneon lights, will be turned on for the first time during Saturday’sBrookhaven Little Theatre Membership Party.

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The improvements will add to the appeal of a downtown area thatgarnered much praise from the “First Impressions” team. Clearly,the team considered downtown a Brookhaven high point.

“The downtown is as vibrant and attractive as any downtown we’vevisited in Mississippi,” the survey said. “Brookhaven residentsshould be proud and should continue the process of beautificationand renovation.”

Perhaps ironically, the report on the team visit – which wasdone in May – cites industrial-style streetlights as a “majornegative element” and suggests their replacement with decorativeiron lights to match the new street signs. The new street signs andlights are jointly part of a grant-funded project and represent astep toward addressing those survey concerns.

The Haven project, which is nearing completion after about threemonths of work, is another component of the renovations going on indowntown. In addition to the sign and marquee, the theaterbuilding’s fa├žade has been completely reworked, with particularemphasis put on the ticket booth and the old Posey Placelocation.

Survey team members commented on the various building projectsthat have been going on downtown.

“Very few of the buildings have not been renovated and some wereunder construction during our visit. Many of the building facadesare original and all but a few are in character,” according to thesurvey, which went on to say some of the more modern buildingsdetract “somewhat” from the hometown charm of the area.

The survey also encouraged more promotion of downtown buildings’upstairs residential areas, since they said are popular withretirees and young professionals.

Survey results were not all glowing as utility poles, somesignage and a few building fronts were deemed distracting or”eyesores.”

Further findings from the “First Impressions” survey areexpected to be discussed during the Chamber of Commerce’s quarterlymembership breakfast Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 a.m. at WesternSizzlin’. The survey report offers an outsider’s welcomeperspective on things Brookhaven is doing right and areas wherethings could be done better.

While there still are issues and items that could be done betterin downtown, that area is continuing on the positive path thanks toprojects like the lights and signs and the Haven restoration.