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.

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.