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Tue January 19, 2010 - Southeast Edition
MAGNOLIA, Miss. (AP) Eight months after construction crews began their work, an elegant lady has a new face.
The majority of Magnolia’s downtown revitalization project is complete, giving the city a look that harkens back to an earlier time when life was simpler and the downtown area was the focal point of the community.
Funded by a $633,949 Katrina GO Zone grant, the downtown revitalization is part of an overall facelift and renovation project that includes renovating the city’s train depot to convert the building into a new city hall.
The depot project is funded by two grants from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History totaling $780,000, and a $158,000 MDOT grant, which included a $38,000 city match, to buy the depot.
“I’m very pleased with the work,” Magnolia Mayor Melvin Harris said. “It’s very beautiful and very professionally done.”
John Roberts, owner of The Corner Drug Store, believes the changes downtown will help his business.
“It’s very attractive, and people do notice,” he said. “I see people sitting on the benches — it’s attracting people downtown.”
The revitalized downtown area features new street lights with underground wiring, and sidewalks featuring a mix of paving and brick pavers. The pavers are over the wires for the street lights to make it easier for workers to make repairs.
The store fronts are repainted, and the stores with brick fronts were washed and the old grout replaced with new concrete.
“The store owners and the people leasing the stores are pleased with the results,” Harris said. “I sat back and let them make the decisions on the store fronts, so they’re pleasing to the residents who own the buildings and the residents who are leasing them.”
The park between the railroad tracks features benches and a fountain, along with a fence between the park and the Canadian National Railroad tracks.
The park is named after Magnolia resident Dr. Luke Lampton, who owned the depot and donated the land for the park. Harris said a sign will soon be placed in the park in Lampton’s name.
Harris said a public ceremony dedicating the downtown area has not been scheduled, pending the status of the depot project. The board of aldermen on Jan. 12 awarded the project to Scarbrough Construction of Roxie, pending approval by the project architect and MDOT, which is providing the grant for the depot restoration.
“We’re trying to make a decision whether to wait until the depot is completed,” Harris said. “No date has been set, because we’d like to get the depot project going and show off everything.”