News + Events

Carl Small Town Center’s Ripley project provides students with ‘real-world’ experience

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center has collaborated with students in the university’s College of Architecture, Art and Design to reimagine a popular site in Ripley as part of a proposed master plan for the Tippah County town.

Director Leah F. Kemp said the CSTC began work on the Ripley master plan this past August. For the project, the center solicited help from MSU Assistant Professor Fred Esenwein’s fourth-year architecture studio class to generate ideas for the 50-acre First Monday Trade Days and Flea Market site in Ripley.

Throughout the fall semester, Esenwein’s students worked in groups to develop a master plan featuring cohesive structures for the site, which has brought together craftsmen, artists, farmers, ranchers and other community members for more than 120 years. Ripley residents and CSTC staff also provided feedback to students over the course of the project.

Kemp said the architecture students received words of praise while recently presenting their completed projects to Ripley stakeholders at the Carl Small Town Center in MSU’s Giles Hall. The center will incorporate the students’ design recommendations into a master plan fostering economic growth and community development in Ripley and Tippah County as a whole.

“The Carl Small Town Center is a valuable resource for the School of Architecture as it provides a meaningful way to link students to communities and their needs,” Kemp said. “It also provides students with the opportunity to engage in public interest design.”

Asher Paxton, a senior architecture major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was among students who participated in the CSTC project. He enjoyed interacting with Ripley residents and stakeholders on-site, as well as during their recent visit to the Starkville campus.

“For us architecture students, having the clients come to our fourth-year studio review to critique our work was super beneficial,” Paxton said. “It helped us think about the site in a real-world way.”

Greenwood resident Fred E. Carl Jr., a major Mississippi State benefactor and the Carl Small Town Center’s namesake, founded and served as the first president and CEO of nationally recognized Viking Range Corp. A one-time architecture major at MSU, he endowed the university’s statewide community design outreach program in 2004.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at Mississippi State University, is an advocate of meaningful design for small towns.

Carl Small Town Center receives public outreach, design honors for ‘Marking the Mule’ project

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center is receiving two statewide awards for its “Marking the Mule” project focused on advancing citizen engagement in the Marks community.

On the university’s behalf, CSTC Director Leah F. Kemp recently accepted a 2017 Public Outreach Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association at its joint conference with the Alabama chapter in Birmingham, Alabama. The award recognizes an individual or program that uses information and education to raise awareness about the value of planning among communities and locales. Award criteria include innovation, comprehensiveness, holistic approach, transferability, quality, implementation and technology use.

The project also received an AIA Design Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects during the organization’s recent Public, Design, Community and Membership Awards Celebration at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.

In July 2015, MSU’s Carl Small Town Center was awarded a $25,000 Our Town grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to create a trail and make plans for an interpretive center that tells the story of a 1968 Mule Train, a program of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign.”

The yearlong public outreach campaign project engaged local residents, historians, architects, planners and state tourism and historic preservation officials. The integrated planning process created a vision for a cultural trail and interpretive center focused on events surrounding the Mule Train.

Documentation of oral histories, outreach at a local blues festival, a hands-on design charrette and multiple feedback loops culminated in the design of an interpretive center and trail, as well as construction of a trailhead marker doubling as a welcome sign at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 6/U.S. Highway 278 and M.L.K. Jr. Drive in Marks.

Kemp said the “Marking the Mule” project gave the Carl Small Town Center and Marks residents the opportunity to have a meaningful impact through the development of a tangible project in the Quitman County community.

“At the Carl Small Town Center, we truly enjoy engaging with communities to find the best solutions to their challenges,” Kemp said. “In the form of multimodal trails, we were able to address tourism and health and wellness, promote historical significance, and provide entryway signage for the Marks community. The resulting awards our center has received are a reflection of this successful project and partnership.”

Fred E. Carl Jr., a major Mississippi State benefactor and the Carl Small Town Center’s namesake, is a Greenwood resident who founded and served as the first president and CEO of nationally recognized Viking Range Corp. A one-time architecture major at MSU, he endowed the university’s statewide community design outreach program in 2004.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at Mississippi State University, was founded in 1979 to help address issues faced by Mississippi’s small towns.

Carl Small Town Center to teach CREATE Common Ground course in Spring 2018

Photo: Aberdeen Elementary students use a uniquely designed crosswalk that was designed and installed as part of the 2017 CREATE Common Ground project in Aberdeen, MS.

MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. – Faculty and staff with the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University will be teaching a 3-credit community design seminar during the spring semester of 2018 that provides opportunities for hands-on learning for students.

The CREATE Common Ground course, made possible by a grant from the CREATE Foundation, gives students the opportunity to work with residents and leaders of small towns in northeast Mississippi to improve their built environment.

The course, which is open to all students regardless of major or grade level, will provide instruction in public interest design and will explore issues of economic development, historic preservation, and transportation for small towns through readings and lectures.

By the end of the course, students will understand the economic, social, and environmental issues facing small towns and will be equipped to propose design changes that will positively impact the town’s built environment.

Mississippi State University students are encouraged to sign up using course code ARC 4613 by the registration deadline on November 10, 2017.

The Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University is an advocate of meaningful design for small towns.

Kemp, Gregory participate in Public Interest Design Institute

NEW ORLEANS — Carl Small Town Center director Leah Kemp and community planner Thomas Gregory recently participated in a two-day seminar hosted by the DesignCorps SEED Network that focused on the emerging public interest design movement within the field of architecture.

Joined by nearly thirty planning and design professionals from New Orleans and the surrounding area, the Carl Small Town Center team reviewed case studies of successful public interest design projects and learned about the methodology used by the SEED Network to evaluate and certify projects.

Kemp and Gregory also presented successful public interest design projects completed by the Carl Small Town Center in three Mississippi towns, including a master plan for the Baptist Town neighborhood in Greenwood, plans for a cultural trail in Marks, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements in New Houlka.

In addition, as a result of his participation in the two-day institute, Gregory received certification as a SEED Professional. Participation in the Public Interest Design Institute enhances the professional skills needed to proactively engage communities in design projects.

The SEED Network’s mission is to advance the right of every person to live in a socially, economically and environmentally healthy community.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at Mississippi State University, was founded in 1979 to help address issues faced by Mississippi’s small towns.

Carl Small Town Center team gains new director, community planner

Leah Kemp and Thomas Gregory

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center is announcing its new leader and welcoming another to the team.

Leah F. Kemp was promoted to CSTC director in July, while Thomas R. Gregory III officially began his new role as the center’s community planner at the start of the fall semester.

Prior to assuming the center’s directorship, Kemp served for six years as assistant director and one year as interim director. At MSU, she also has served as an adjunct professor, visiting assistant professor and instructor in the College of Architecture, Art and Design.

A Mississippi Registered Architect, Kemp also has practiced in Washington, D.C., and Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design from Virginia Tech, as well as a master of architecture from Tulane University, where she received a commendation.

Additionally, Kemp is a member of multiple professional organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, and the national American Planning Association and its Mississippi chapter. She also is a Mississippi Heritage Trust and Mississippi Main Street board member.

In her new role, Kemp said she will continue serving as a leader, partner and educator in public interest design for MSU’s School of Architecture. Being a strong advocate for meaningful design in small towns is another of her top priorities, she said.

“My goal is to make the Carl Small Town Center the foremost thought leader in small town issues as they relate to the built environment,” she said. “Because we have the unique challenge of serving the majority of Mississippi’s small towns, I’d like to see our center help address more complex issues that are shared challenges among our Mississippi communities.”

Gregory is a 2005 MSU business administration, construction management and land development bachelor’s graduate who also minored in economics and political science. He returned to his alma mater after serving eight years as chief administrative officer for the City of Greenwood.

In that role, he was instrumental in writing grants, administering projects, and implementing the comprehensive plan for the city under the leadership of Mayor Carolyn McAdams.

“When I worked for the City of Greenwood, we partnered with the Carl Small Town Center to create a master plan for the Baptist Town neighborhood, and I witnessed firsthand the transformation the center’s work had on that community,” Gregory said. “As a former client of the Carl Small Town Center, I was impressed with the quality of work it produced and the success it had in improving the quality of life for Baptist Town residents.”

A Master of City and Regional Planning graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gregory is licensed by the American Institute of Certified Planners and is a member of the American Planning Association and Congress for the New Urbanism, among other professional groups.

Through his new role as the Carl Small Town Center’s community planner, Gregory said he is looking forward to “helping Mississippi’s small towns create a vision for their communities and providing tools to bring their vision to reality.”

“As a member of the CSTC team, I am excited to be a part of the transformational work we are doing around the state,” he said.

Fred E. Carl Jr., a major Mississippi State benefactor and the Carl Small Town Center’s namesake, is a Greenwood resident who founded and served as the first president and CEO of nationally recognized Viking Range Corp. A one-time architecture major at MSU, he endowed the university’s statewide community design outreach program in 2004.

For more on the College of Architecture, Art and Design, visit www.caad.msstate.edu; its Carl Small Town Center at http://carlsmalltowncenter.org or www.msstate.edu/videos/2016/07/carl-small-town-center.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Carl Small Town Center director discusses city planning in Mississippi on SuperTalk Radio

Leah Kemp, director of the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University, was a part of “Good things with Rebecca Turner” on Mississippi’s SuperTalk Radio yesterday [Aug. 9] at 2:20 p.m.

Kemp discussed city planning for towns and cities across the Magnolia State.
Also a part of the discussion was Scott Hummel, executive vice president and provost of William Carey University, discussing the rebuilding that has taken place on campus following a January tornado.

Listen to the recording here.

Established in 1979, the Carl Small Town Center provides research and service assistance to towns through the redevelopment of downtowns and the implementation of other comparable community improvement initiatives. Assistance projects include community design and improvement, economic diversification, town planning, conservation of architectural and historic resources, affordable housing design and technology, and other activities that affect quality of life in the community.

The Carl Small Town Center is an advocate of meaningful design for small towns.

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.