MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Main Street Hero

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Main Street Hero recognizes one outstanding community leader or public figure who has displayed an involved commitment to downtown and his or her Main Street program.  On June 21, 2018, Mallorie Rasberry received this honor at the annual MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards in Jackson, MS. The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Mallorie Main Street Hero

Main Street Hero

There are people who are dedicated volunteers and passionate advocates for their towns. They are at almost every event and are valued. You give them awards to show your appreciation and thank them constantly for their service.

Then, there are people who have been there since the beginning, are at every event, and you never get the opportunity to thank them because, if you did, you’d never be able to stop. There are people without whom the success of the organization is immediately called into question. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Mallorie Rasberry.

Mallorie is a wife and mother, an accountant, a business owner, and perhaps the single greatest advocate for Downtown Laurel, Mississippi on the face of the planet. She started out on the Promotions Committee and has served in nearly every officer position on the Laurel Main Street board in her 8 years with the organization. She has acted as de facto treasurer for most of her tenure on the LMS board and has seen a fair number of sunrises while volunteering. Mallorie and her husband, Jim, generously offered the space for the Laurel Welcome Center and storage for the plethora of signs and shirts LMS always has on hand. She welcomes visitors to Laurel daily and now shares the Laurel Main Street story nationally on HGTV’s Hometown.

The list of reasons why Mallorie is a hero to Laurel Main Street can fill pages, but it all emanates from her sincere belief that Downtown Laurel is a place worth saving. That belief is what keeps her feet moving toward the goal of a fully vibrant and restored Laurel. She feels so strongly about this that she is part of the group that spoke at the closing session of the National Main Street Conference about what a Downtown Comeback was all about.Mallorie Downtown Comeback Mallorie could have left Laurel Main Street; after all, she had plenty of other things vying for her time. But, she chose to stay in the trenches and fight every day. She chose to do whatever she could whenever she could to bring her hometown back. Not many people would stick around for almost 10 years, running most of that time on hope and coffee, but Mallorie did.

Whenever someone in Laurel Main Street needs encouragement or to be reminded that the work is worth the effort, we casually point at Mallorie and say, “She was here when Laurel had been abandoned; she was here fighting when no one believed in this place, and she did it while raising a daughter and working full time. If she can do it, you can too.” What else can we call her besides hero?

On Thursday, June 21, 2018 the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities.

MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Best Adaptive Reuse Project

On Thursday, June 21st, the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities. This year, Laurel Main Street was honored to receive four awards.  Over the coming weeks, we will showcase each award and the work that went into achieving them.  

Best Adaptive Reuse Project

The transformation of the Burton Building on the corner of Magnolia and Oak Streets was The Burton Buildinghonored as Best Adaptive Reuse Project.  As stated by the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA), “This award is granted to the best adaptive reuse of a building that has outlived its former use, including conversion to housing, office space, multiple businesses, public meeting space, restaurants, cultural centers, etc.” The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Laurel Main Street Executive Director, Judi Holifield, used to say that rehabilitating the Burton’s building would be the ultimate domino effect; all of the other buildings along Magnolia Street would be sold if only that one could be. After all, anchor buildings like this one can make or break an area. The problem? The Burton’s building needed love and a lot of it, and it needed someone with the vision and patience to breathe life back into the structure. So, the building sat vacant for years—a prominent, depressing eye-sore—that is, until Josh Nowell came along.

Josh had been an oil man until the industry took a turn for the worse, and he needed a new career path. He decided he would invest in Downtown Laurel, starting with the  most ambitious project it had to offer. The renovation took over two years. Floors were removed and structural support added; the old façade was taken to make room for a new one; the outside of the building was washed, and a new paint job was in order; the vintage sign was restored and saved; electricians and plumbers and demolition crews and designers and just about every professional you can imagine contributed at some point. Clearly, it was a labor of love.

The building is now full and is home to two home goods stores, a coworking space, an
engineering firm, and a restaurant. Josh renovated to suit each tenant, which allowed the facades to be different and yet complementary. Each one is beautifully restored with lots of exposed brick and original wood and tiles. The integrity of the building was maintained while allowing new businesses to find a home. The old awnings were replaced with new metal ones of a deep gold color, complimenting the blues and greens on the exterior. CSpire fiber, a cutting edge, hyper-fast internet, was also installed, making the building a fusion between past and future.

The best part of this story is that Judi Holifield was right. Once the Burton’s building was brought back to life, new businesses opened up on Magnolia Street, including Molly Renee’s Boutique, Guild and Gentry, The Loblolly Boutique and Crescent Line Toys. The building has provided not only space for businesses to grow and flourish but has also given the history a chance to continue in new and interesting ways.

 

 

The Park That Safety 1st Built

When baby gear company Safety 1st approached local HGTV personalities, Ben & Erin Napier about sprucing up a park in Laurel for a commercial shoot, their initial response was “All of our parks are beautiful already.  We can’t think of a single one that needs a makeover on this scale.” Then, friend Josh Nowell had a lightbulb moment… What about Trustmark Park on the corner of Oak and Magnolia Streets?  It might be a little tricky though… the park was owned by the bank.  

After a meeting with Trustmark Bank officials, the City of Laurel, Laurel Main Street, Ben, and Josh, the bank agreed to donate the park to the city.  The city accepted the park and agreed to its maintenance.  Neel-Schaffer designed a beautiful and functional space and provided support throughout the construction process.  Laurel Main Street received the funds from Safety 1st for the renovation and work began.  

Old, tangled ground cover was removed to make way for artificial turf.  The turf makes a soft and safe play space for children, and is an easy to clean alternative to grass or wood chips. A hill was created in the middle of the park — perfect for rolling and sliding down!  

 

Beyond creating a safe and welcoming space, we desired a space that would reflect the personality of our town as well.  For that, local artist, Adam Trest, designed custom fence panels which were manufactured locally by C & C Specialties.  For the purpose of the Safety 1st commercial shoot in the park, their logo was painted on the brick facade of the building bordering the park.  Soon, this facade will be repainted with a custom mural, designed by Adam Trest to compliment the fence panels.

We would like to thank Safety 1st for their generous donation to our community.  However, we would be remiss if we did not also thank Laurel Main Street Board President, Lew Yoder, for negotiating the donation of the park.

At the grand opening of the newly renovated park, children enjoyed toys and activities from Crescent Line Toys, and swings from the Laurel Mercantile.  Special thanks to Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria for catering this event with their delicious pizzas, and to Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar for providing sweet treats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Deepest Thanks to:

Safety 1st

The Napier Family

Josh Nowell

Trustmark Bank

The City of Laurel

Neel-Schaffer Engineers

Dunn Roadbuilders

Landmark Landscape

Cynthia Rahaim, Horticulturist

Laurel Mercantile

Crescent Line Toys

Adam Trest

C & C Specialties

Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria

Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar

Photo credit: Laura Jones