'Lights at Lafayette' aims to bring activity back to downtown Starkville

September 11, 2020 11:25:54 AM

Slim Smith - ssmith@cdispatch.com


Weeks after a planned outdoor "streatery" in Starkville faded to black in the face of potential litigation, the lights are on for another outdoor venue downtown.


A week ago, Starkville Electric strung 900 LED lights across one block of Lafayette Street between Main and Lumpkin streets in an effort to create a space for outdoor events and enhance foot traffic in the area.


The "Lights at Lafayette" is a collaboration among the city, which provided in-kind services to erect the lights, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and its affiliates, Mississippi State's Carl Small Town Center and local businesses. The total project costs about $10,000, including $3,300 for the lights. Another $6,600 was spent on bollards that can be used to block off the area from auto traffic during events.



"The idea originated with our mayor trying to identify ways to provide more outdoor opportunities," Partnership CEO Mike Tagert said. "The Carl Small Town Center took her vision and translated it into a design project that we think provides opportunities for night events there."


Mayor Lynn Spruill said the Lafayette Street location proved to be an ideal site for the location.


"The thinking was it was the only place we could do it," Spruill said. "It's a good area of downtown to try it and the response has been nothing but favorable so far."


Sarah Dempsey, who opened her hair salon, Magnolia Hair Studio, on Lafayette Street earlier this year, is thrilled with the new addition.


"We love the lights," she said. "They are absolutely beautiful. Hopefully, they will attract people back downtown."


Tagert said the Partnership's main role in the project was coordinating with local businesses and civic groups to rally support for the project.


"We were very interested in this project because it's about finding a creative way to increase traffic and create opportunities for restaurants to increase capacity during this time when there are (seating) restrictions in place," he said. "The Streatery idea didn't go through, but this looks like a good alternative to that."


Starkville Utilities General Manager Terry Kemp said the new lighting not only creates an appealing ambiance, but is cost efficient.


"The lighting it provides is about the same as you would get from six to eight conventional street lights," Kemp said. "We took down the street lights on the block as we put up the LED lights, so Saxon Wilson, right, photographs Madison Evans, center, a high school senior from Hamilton in Monroe County, for her senior photos Thursday evening on Lafayette Street in Starkville.


you're getting much more lighting in that area than before."


The Lights at Lafayette project comes after attorney Charles Brown in July challenged the city's planned "Streatery," which would have converted nine parking spaces on Main Street into an outdoor dining area to support nearby restaurants.


This time, Tagert said, tenants along Lafayette pledged their support for the project.


"We brought in the businesses to explain what we were trying to do with the project and they were very supportive," Tagert said.


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.