DDA Annual Meeting Unveils Plans for Vicksburg’s Downtown

ddaBy Travis Smola

The Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority has major plans in the works for the downtown area.

After months of planning, a three-phase development plan calling for approximately $7.6 million of downtown redevelopment was unveiled at the authority’s July meeting. The goal is to transform and redefine the area. “Downtown Vicksburg will be a premiere destination that embraces our rich heritage,” said Director Kathleen Hoyle.

The first stage was the establishment of new downtown area boundaries for improvements and future use of grants. The new boundaries cover both sides of streets and all properties downtown. Previously, the boundaries were somewhat spotty in those areas.

The next phase is design for downtown amenities, including a new bike and trail system, architectural revival, park and municipal center development. The final phase will be identifying and applying for grants to help fund the projects.

“We’ve really been working on planning,” Hoyle said of the three-year plan. “That’s what’s going to put that infrastructure in place.”

One of the projects will be a façade program intended to restore historic buildings to their original appearance. “We’re going to have the funds available to make our downtown look as it did in 1880,” said Tanya DeLong, board treasurer. The authority plans to use historic photographs and grants to aid in this restoration process.

DeLong said board members are also planning wider sidewalks and bigger awnings on buildings to make the downtown area more friendly to shoppers. In addition, she said, many of the two-story buildings have dilapidated second floors they hope to see restored. “We can get grants to repair much of that stuff,” she said.

As a bonus, a historic tax designation would be expanded into much of the downtown region offering tax credits for anyone who buys an historic building. They plan to hire a consultant still to do a profile on each of the buildings.

To assist with development of a trail system and improvement and development of more park areas, the board has brought in Bill Deming, retired Parks, Recreation and Public Services director in Portage, as a consultant. “I was very excited to see what Vicksburg had in mind,” Deming said. Currently, he is working on getting funding from MDOT and the DNR to help with new trail construction. “If we can get this in, you’ll be amazed what this trail can do for a lot of things here,” Deming said. “It’s going to be a tremendous asset.”

Developing, growing and retaining downtown business will also be a part of the plan. Mike Oswalt, a board member, encouraged the public to take part in public surveys about the kinds of businesses people would like to see. “Let us know which of these business categories you think Vicksburg should have,” he said. They will use the feedback to put together plans for finding new businesses and helping existing ones fill those needs.

The presenters also discussed integration of arts, culture, parking area development, green initiatives and traffic safety issues. Vicksburg Village President Bill Adams acknowledged it was a massive plan; the authority would need a lot of support. “We want to call you together to work on what I think is going to be a game-changer for Vicksburg,” Adams said. “We’re going to have to enlist the support of all the people in South County [to get this done].”

Additional details of the DDA’s plans, including the project’s boundaries, can be viewed on its new website: vicksburgdda.com

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