Carl Small Town Center workshop wins national award

A successful Chickasaw County community planning project is earning national recognition for a well-known Mississippi State architectural research unit.

The university’s Carl Small Town Center is the American Planning Association’s selection for the 2016 James A. Segedy Award for Outstanding Student Project. The award is among several bestowed by APA’s Small Town and Rural Division.

Two years ago, MSU architecture majors and Carl Center professionals helped the City of Houston organize a workshop to gather local ideas for enhancing the southern terminus of the Tanglefoot Trail cycling and pedestrian pathway. “Start Dreaming, Houston…” was the workshop theme.

Running north-south for more than 43 miles from New Albany to Houston, Tanglefoot became Mississippi’s longest rails-to-trails conversion when it opened in 2013.

The MSU team helped prepare interactive activities, plans and maps, as well as organize group discussions, during the three-day workshop funded by the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative.

The 2014 CIRD grant to MSU and Houston was one of only four in the U.S. given that year.

The Carl Small Town Center is a non-profit outreach program of MSU’s School of Architecture and College of Architecture, Art and Design. For more, see www.carlsmalltowncenter.org.

“This award is one of many recent awards that recognizes the work of the Carl Small Town Center to develop and implement design projects for small towns and communities in Mississippi,” said Greg G. Hall, associate college dean.

Hall said the Houston planning workshop was another “example of ways in which the center supports the mission of the university to serve the development of the state through teaching, research and service.”

Leah Kemp, Carl Center assistant director, said a primary workshop goal was to develop plans for a trailhead pavilion and physical guides to lead visitors to Houston’s downtown area and the nearby Natchez Trace Parkway.

“Our students gained immeasurable experience in community engagement and developing leadership skills while helping facilitate the design workshop,” Kemp said. “They also gained exposure to national experts and worked alongside them, which they really enjoyed.”

In noting that construction of a Carl Center-designed pavilion soon will begin, Kemp praised Houston community leaders and volunteers for “making big strides to put the workshop plans into action.”

Speaking for all on the MSU team, she added, “We have enjoyed working with them to make it happen.”

The Segedy Award will be presented formally April 3 during the 2016 APA National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The Houston project will be highlighted and also featured in the organization’s newsletter.