News + Events

CSTC welcomes 2018 summer associates

Photo, from left to right: Shameen Akhtar, Felipe Olvera, and Baleigh Hull.

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) at Mississippi State University is proud to welcome three summer associates who will be working in our office at Giles Hall this summer. Each associate brings a unique set of interests and skills, which will contribute to the CSTC’s design projects.

Shameen Akhtar is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a BFA in architecture. For the past year and a half, Shameen worked for the Master Plan Street Team in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she used community engagement to develop the master plan’s five areas of focus. Shameen is interested in the collaboration of public interest design and architecture.

Felipe Olvera is a native of Memphis, Tennessee and is a third year architecture student at Mississippi State University. Felipe’s interests include mass timber and passive building systems. Felipe is the public relations chair for AIAS, serves as the co-editor of BarnWorks at MSU, and served on the Freedom by Design team, which worked to build an ADA ramp for the Oktoc Community Center.

Baleigh Hull is a fourth year architecture student at Mississippi State University from Collinsville, Mississippi. Baleigh has been working for the CSTC for the past year on a variety of community design projects, including the Ripley Master Plan. Baleigh is interested in sustainable design and the use of reusable building materials. She has served as a volunteer for Clean the Stream in West Alabama.

CREATE Common Ground students implement design project in Ripley

Photo, left to right: CSTC community planner Thomas Gregory, student Rayce Belton, Mayor Chris Marsalis, student Shelby Jaco, assistant professor Silvina Lopez Barrera. Not pictured: student Nada Aziz.

RIPLEY, Miss.—Each year, a community in Northeast Mississippi is selected from a pool of applicants to participate with the Carl Small Town Center’s CREATE Common Ground class. CREATE Common Ground is the result of a partnership between the Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) at Mississippi State University and the CREATE Foundation, which began in 1998.

The course seeks to engage both students and municipal leaders in the community design process to begin thinking about design issues and opportunities. This year, assistant professor Silvina Lopez Barrerra and CSTC community planner Thomas Gregory served as instructors for the course.

Ripley, Mississippi was chosen as the 2018 CREATE Common Ground project as a result of an ongoing partnership between the Carl Small Town Center and the Ripley community. Students met with Ripley mayor Chris Marsalis and Ripley Main Street director Elizabeth Behm to identify opportunities for design interventions around the Tippah County Courthouse square.

Architecture students Nada Aziz, Rayce Belton, and Shelby Jaco developed schematic designs in early spring, which were presented to Mayor Marsalis and Ms. Behm during a community review in March.

Working with these local leaders, the team selected a narrow alley connecting a public parking lot to South Commerce Street as the site where the design intervention would be implemented. The students then combined their ideas and developed a singular design for the alley improvements.

On April 19, the students and instructors traveled to Ripley and spent the day installing handcrafted overhead light fixtures, which provide much needed light in the dark space. The students also painted a unique design on the freshly washed concrete surface to create interest.

Finally, wayfinding signage was made and sent to the City of Ripley to be affixed to the walls leading into the alley to let pedestrians know how to access the parking lot and courthouse square.

The CREATE Ripley project serves as a great example of how the design process can be used to help solve small town problems by combining creativity, hard work, and a little bit of money.

Kemp leads tour of CSTC’s Marking the Mule interpretive trail

MARKS, Miss.—As part of its weeklong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign, Carl Small Town Center Director Leah Kemp was invited to the community of Marks, Mississippi, to tour Martin Luther King III through the Marking the Mule interpretive trail.

Designed by the Carl Small Town Center (CSTC), the multi-modal Marking the Mule interpretive trail highlights the Marks Mule Train Civil Rights campaign, a vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s.

In July 2015, the CSTC was awarded a $25,000 Our Town grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to work with the community to vision a way to commemorate the historic civil rights campaign.

The yearlong public outreach campaign project engaged local residents, historians, architects and planners. The CSTC developed interpretive pedestrian and vehicle trails along with corresponding signage highlighting Civil Rights-related sites in Marks. The project also included a master plan for the designated Trailhead Park and the construction of a welcome sign showing interactive maps for new trails.

The CSTC recently received two statewide awards for its Marking the Mule project, which focused on advancing citizen engagement in the Marks community – a 2017 Public Outreach Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association and an AIA Design Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

You can learn more about the Marking the Mule project on our projects page.

 

Ripley To Receive Comprehensive Data-Driven Vision

Photo: Ripley citizen Jerry Windham discusses plan with MSU architecture students.

by Jed Pressgrove

STARKVILLE, Miss.—NSPARC and the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University have partnered to create an in-depth strategic plan for the rural town of Ripley, Mississippi.

The NSPARC-sponsored plan, which will be informed by a wide variety of data, will include a comprehensive vision for the community of Ripley, specific recommendations, and details on how to implement aspects of the plan. The document will reflect both NSPARC’s commitment to data science and the Carl Small Town Center’s dedication to community engagement within the field of architecture and design.

“This plan can help Ripley innovate and thus increase its economic competitiveness,” NSPARC Executive Director Mimmo Parisi said. “Data science will continue to play a key role in inspiring rural communities to evolve.”

“The partnership with the Carl Small Town Center and NSPARC in Ripley is the first of its kind, but one we believe to be a model for helping other communities,” Carl Small Town Center Director Leah Kemp said. “Together, we have combined our resources to offer Ripley a comprehensive analysis and vision for its community. It helps the community on so many levels, and having this service paid for by NSPARC relieves a tremendous burden for the community.”

Ripley Mayor Chris Marsalis said the need for a plan was identified during a series of discussions that he had with a county development officer about a year ago. Since then, numerous community leaders have bought into the notion of a strategic 20-year vision to address the various needs of the town.

“I can’t really place a value on it,” Marsalis said. “Without this arrangement [with NSPARC and the Carl Small Town Center], we would not be able to receive this type of detailed direction for the town.”

Carl Small Town Center community planner Thomas Gregory said his team has spent several months communicating with the Ripley community about its needs. The dialogue started with a meeting of community leaders and representatives who identified broad needs, such as downtown design, transportation, and community appearance.

“We worked with the Ripley community to select this group of stakeholders that represented all aspects of the community,” Gregory said.

The Carl Small Town Center then had an open meeting with the community that was attended by about 35 people who grouped specific issues and solutions under the broad needs identified during the meeting described above. Gregory said these meetings reflect a bottom-up approach to plan development.

“Community engagement is at the heart of what we do in communities across the state,” he said. “We like to think of the plan as being developed by the community, with technical assistance provided by the Carl Small Town Center. We are the facilitators of the visioning and planning process.”

Marsalis said there are many facets to Ripley that have to be thought about as a whole and as individual details. This complexity speaks to the importance of having expert help, especially in a non-urban setting.

“It’s a holistic approach to small-town operations,” Marsalis said. “The Carl Small Town Center brings architectural and planning expertise that small towns don’t have compared to big cities.”

Both NSPARC and the Carl Small Town Center think Ripley’s future will be brighter than ever.

“This project will give Ripley the knowledge and the tools to transform their ideas into reality,” Parisi said. “That’s what data can do for any community.”

“Once the new comprehensive plan is finished in summer 2018, the community will be able to leverage grants and other funding to implement the projects outlined in the plan, ultimately bringing economic success to the overall community,” Kemp said.

Carl Small Town Center seeking applications for Public Interest Design Summer Associate

STARKVILLE, Miss.— The Carl Small Town Center is seeking applicants for a Summer Associate to work on a range of public interest design projects, including architectural design and community planning projects.

The Summer Associate will work 40 hours per week for 8-10 weeks during the summer of 2018.

Applicants should have completed a bachelor’s degree in architecture, city planning, urban design, or a related field. Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Creative Suite is required. Experience with architectural design software (AutoCAD, SketchUp, and/or Revit) is preferred.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at the Mississippi State University School of Architecture, engages communities to provide meaningful design solutions for small towns.

Instructions for applying and other information about the Summer Associate position can be found here.

 

Carl Small Town Center’s Gregory to lead statewide planning association

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State alumnus and community planner for the university’s Carl Small Town Center is beginning a new leadership role with the state’s professional organization for city planners.

Thomas R. Gregory III recently was elected to a one-year term as president-elect of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association. In January 2019, he will begin a two-year term as the organization’s president.

“It is an honor to be selected by my peers and colleagues across Mississippi to lead our state chapter,” Gregory said. “The work we do as planners is critical to the success of Mississippi’s communities, and I will work hard to promote our profession across the state.”

Gregory said he looks forward to collaborating with the executive team to update the chapter’s strategic plan and increase membership among planning professionals in Mississippi.

“I would also like to piggy-back on our national organization’s ‘Great Places’ initiative by creating a ‘Great Places in Mississippi’ program to recognize Mississippi communities that exemplify good planning,” Gregory added.

Prior to being named president-elect, Gregory served as APA Mississippi’s public information officer and conference committee chair. He currently serves the APA on a national level as a member of its leadership development taskforce.

Gregory, a native of Greenwood, is a 2005 MSU magna cum laude business administration, construction management and land development bachelor’s graduate who also minored in economics and political science. He returned to his alma mater during the 2017 fall semester after serving eight years as chief administrative officer for the City of Greenwood. There, he served on the board of directors for Main Street Greenwood, Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, Greenwood Boys and Girls Club and ArtPlace Mississippi.

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 Congress for the New Urbanism, among other professional groups. He is a graduate of the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, Public Interest Design Institute and Leadership Mississippi.

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’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.