By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Results from a one-day-long visit for a study conducted by Mississippi State University in the summer of 2012 showed Picayune is described by visitors with a mix of good and bad.
Some of the high points described by MSU Project Manager Jeremy Murdock include the close proximity to Stennis, the Crosby Arboretum, to Interstate 59, the bustling downtown area, the newly constructed hospital and the inclusion of an Amtrak station.
However, the visitors also noticed the abandoned buildings — including the now empty hospital building on Goodyear Boulevard— and lack of a path between the east and west sides of downtown that pedestrians could use, and the unsafe nature of the walking track on Goodyear.
Murdock said some of the negatives found in the visit may have become something locals have become accustomed to, but they still need to be addressed.
“As a long time resident, you drive by things you just don’t see anymore,” Murdock said.
Some things the city could do to ensure a pleasant drive through town would be to introduce sign ordinances. Murdock showed photos of cities that lacked such ordinances, which were littered with tall signs all vying for a potential customer’s eye. On the flip side, cities that mandated signs be kept close to the ground were abided by even the largest chain business, which creates a pleasant aesthetic to the driving experience.
Several contrasts were noticed during the visit. At exit 6, the visitors noticed on one side of the interstate is a new shopping center, Top of the Hill, but on the opposite side sits an abandoned and run-down theater. While driving down sections of Memorial Boulevard, they noticed curb and gutter and manicured medians along the road that lend to pleasant view. At the intersection of Memorial with Haugh Street, though, the visitors noticed the eyesore that is the Centraplex and where Memorial dead-ends into U.S. Highway 11 they saw an abandoned BP gas station. As the visitors traveled along U.S. Hwy. 11, the downtown area was seen as a plus, but as the drive heads north there’s a lot of unpleasant asphalt and poorly marked intersections.
The ornamental signs through the city, especially in downtown, were seen by the visitors as a unique and pleasant aspect of Picayune. However, many street signs in the city have been neglected and a number of “Stop” signs suffer from vandalism.
Temporary signs, against which the city has a randomly enforced ordinance, also were seen by the visitors as something that should be eliminated.
Murdock said the visitors found the inventive reuse of the old service station into a Smoothie King as a plus, and saw the many locally owned restaurants as things that should be appreciated about Picayune.
Highland Community Hospital’s new building shows newcomers that Picayune has placed emphasis on providing quality health care without residents needing to take a long drive, Murdock said.
While downtown was a high point for most of the visitors, Murdock saw some things that could make it better, such as the need for maintenance of cracking sidewalks, making existing sidewalks ADA accessible, and in certain areas there is a lack of sidewalks altogether.
“(In) a car you’re fine, but as a pedestrian you’re out of luck,” Murdock said.
The visitors noticed the separation of the east and west side of downtown by the railroad tracks. Murdock acknowledged working with railroads for a solution can be hard, but there are ways to do it.
“You have a lot going on (in downtown) but you just got to get people there,” he said.
He said the group also noticed empty lots, or buildings that sit too far from the street, which creates the effect of “missing teeth” as people drive the streets. Murdock suggested the use of well kept shrubs or other ways to create a “wall” along the street to fill the gaps.
On Goodyear Boulevard, Murdock said the visitors found the street pleasant, but he offered some ideas for improvements. He found the walking track and parking located in the center of the four-lane road to be dangerous. He suggested making the walking track safer and moving parking to the left of each lane of traffic. Murdock also suggested possibly making the road two lanes instead of four.