1. Fairpark.jpg

Our Story


Welcome to Downtown Tupelo! We're a vibrant, small-town in the center of the Mississippi Hills. Our historic city is the birthplace of American Music Icon, Elvis Presley, as well as a representation of the diversity and originality our downtown has to offer. Historic Downtown Tupelo unites our citizens from all walks of life by providing a place to connect. Whether its for a special event, live music, the farmers' market, a yoga class or even shopping for your next outfit, there is always a reason to be downtown. Downtown Tupelo has it all!

Our History

Main Street America: A National Organization

Main Street America was created in 1980 through the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an effort to preserve and maintain historic downtowns. Since then, thousands of communities throughout the nation have joined the Main Street program and applied the Four-Point Approach with successful, lasting changes.

What began in 1977 as an experiment with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save three Midwestern downtown cities has grown to become a national movement of which Mississippi Main Street is very proud to be apart. Since 1980, thousands of communities throughout the nation have joined the Main Street program and applied its Four Point Approach with successful, lasting changes.  



In the 50’s, 60’s and 70s’, thousands of downtowns fell by the wayside. Empty stores, boarded up buildings and deteriorating structures lined the streets that were once the social and commercial center of American Life. Areas surrounding Main Street were securing mass construction in areas such as housing and highways, yet Main Street itself was undergoing mass destruction. By the late 70’s people began to notice that the downfall of Main Street took away their sense of community, thus the desire to rekindle the lost community spirit was echoed across the country. Nationwide, efforts to take back Main Street were put in motion. There was a desperate need for expertise and support, which was soon filled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). In 1980 the NTHP established the National Main Street Center to provide the support and encourage the revitalization of Main Street based on historic preservation and sound business practices. To date, 50 states and more than 1,800 communities participate in the Main Street Program nationwide.



Mississippi Main Street Association: A Statewide Organization 


In 1984, the State of Mississippi made its first attempts at starting a Main Street program by designating nine communities to receive technical assistance and guidance from the state program. Unfortunately, an earlier budget crisis squashed the effort, leaving the nine communities equipped with local programs and managers but no level assistance from a statewide program. Without state assistance to aid them, the leaders and managers of the nine communities began communicating with each other. This resulted in the creation of the Mississippi Downtown Development Association (MDDA), a nonprofit organization. A lack of funding and staff made the organization a loosely knit core of volunteers and only fulfilled limited networking needs, but this didn’t stop them from working hard to bring Main Street to Mississippi. Finally, in July 1989, MDDA was successful in contracting with the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development to develop and implement a statewide Main Street program.

Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) was created to provide technical assistance to member towns, which focused on issues embraced by the Main Street Four-Point Approach. Scott Barksdale was hired as the Executive Director, and a year later, in early 1990, five application workshops were held across the state. More than 120 people representing 80 communities attended these workshops.


In June 1990, the MDDA Board of Directors selected six official cities as demonstration communities for this program.



At the same time, they pledged to continue working with the previously designated cities that had managed to keep their programs operating.



In 1993, Beverly Meng became the Executive Director of MMSA. Under Beverly’s tenure, the Main Street program grew rapidly from 16 programs to more than 40 programs. In 1998, Bob Wilson joined the staff as Director of Program Services, and upon Beverly’s retirement in 2007, was named Executive Director. As of 2008, MMSA has 56 Member Communities with active, participating programs as well as 26 Associate Member towns. With this rapid growth, MMSA has expanded its own staff to meet the needs and demands of the many programs. Since 2005, the MMSA staff has added five full-time positions to expand its services offered to the communities and keep up with their needs. Because of a strong Board of Directors and committed partners and coordinated efforts, MMSA has been successful in assisting with the creation of more than 1,000 new businesses and thousands of new jobs in the central business districts of towns and cities across the state. MMSA has been recognized by the National Main Street Center on numerous occasions as the Number One Coordinating Main Street Program. By utilizing MMSA’s expertise, resources and technical assistance, formerly deteriorating downtowns are becoming vibrant and viable, and they are taking their rightful place as the heart, center and core of their communities.



Tupelo Main Street: A Local Organization


In 1990, The Mall at Barnes Crossing, a regional shopping mall, opened. This prompted the City of Tupelo to purchase the abandoned mall property in Downtown Tupelo, which was already in the design phase of a $14-million redevelopment project to convert the area into a coliseum and conference center in Downtown (now the BancorpSouth Arena). With the arrival of the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center, as well the addition of a regional mall outside of Downtown, city officials and Downtown business owners feared the change in retail activity these projects might cause the central business district. Hope was found through the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) and the Mississippi Downtown Development Association (MDDA).


In a competitive application process, Tupelo was chosen as a Mississippi Main Street community. This meant Tupelo would receive technical assistance focused on issues embraced by the Main Street Four-Point Approach - Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Vitality - and designed to match resources available in the local community.  A key to this successful designation was Tupelo’s successful leveraging of local sources in the form of a public-private partnership with the Uptown Tupelo Association, CDF, CREATE and the City of Tupelo. The city provided the salary and benefits for a director along with in-kind office space within the Department of Planning and Community Development. The Uptown Association, CDF and CREATE matched with a three-year commitment for operating capital to establish a Tupelo Main Street program, which became Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association (DTMSA). In 1999, DTMSA moved from City Hall to 108 South Broadway. Bringing the program to a storefront location was a pivotal move, allowing it easy access to its constituents. Because of this accessibility, DTMSA has seen significant increases in volunteer participation and community partnerships.



DTMSA is an award-winning program for the state and has garnered many successful initiatives. Among those initiatives are Fairpark, an award-winning, progressive, mixed-use expansion of the downtown central business district; Tupelo Elvis Festival, an award-winning, internationally known festival; Tupelo Farmers’ Depot; and Tupelo Chili Festival. Additional initiatives include the continuation of the Reed’s Annual Christmas Parade; a bi-weekly e-newsletter; promotional partnerships with retail merchants; educational seminars on design as well as technical design assistance; and a master landscape design plan for Main Street. Over the past 27 years, DTMSA has seen a private investment of $108 million and a public investment of $56 million. The program currently has seven working committees and a staff of four.



Our Approach

The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a community-driven, comprehensive methodology used to revitalize older, traditional business districts throughout the United States, specifically tailored to meet local needs and opportunities. Its underlying premise is to encourage economic development within the context of historic preservation in ways appropriate to today’s marketplace. It advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment, and the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their unique assets. The Main Street Four-Point Approach has proven that incremental steps toward change are effective for communities of all sizes, both rural and urban. These incremental steps allow for long-term revitalization efforts that are designed under careful attention and great leadership, allowing Main Streets to prosper. The Main Street Four-Point Approach highlights four distinct areas - Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Vitality - that interlock to address all of the commercial district’s needs and form an effective tool for community-based, grassroots revitalization efforts.



DESIGN capitalizes on Main Street’s best assets, such as its historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets. It encompasses every physical part of Main Street, from attractive window displays to the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Design addresses the appearance of the commercial district by encouraging appropriate, new construction and developing sensitive management systems. It also addresses Main Street’s need for an inviting and inclusive atmosphere, created through parking areas, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping.



ORGANIZATION is a collaborative effort which broadens community involvement, sustains partnerships across the public and private sectors, and continuously builds leadership. The fundamental, organizational structure of Main Street programs involves a governing board and standing committees as well as countless volunteers. Each Main Street has a paid program director who coordinates and supports volunteers. This provides for a system that divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, while also building consensus and cooperation among various stakeholders.



PROMOTION sells a positive image of the commercial district, seeking to market Main Street for what makes it unique and identifiable. Promotion works to tell the story of Main Street by encouraging everyone who interacts with the area to support locally owned businesses and Main Street originals. By marketing a Main Street’s defining characteristics, an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image through advertising, retail promotional activity, special events and marketing campaigns. This improves consumer and investor confidence in the district, encouraging commercial activity and investment in the area.



ECONOMIC VITALITY strengthens a community’s existing economic assets while  expanding and diversifying its economic base through smart, new investments. It does this by sharpening the competitiveness its existing business owners while also recruiting compatible new businesses. It also finds new economic uses to build a commercial district that responds to today’s consumers’ needs. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district.



Aside from the Main Street Four-Point Approach, Main Street programs succeed via the Eight Principles of Success: comprehensive, incremental, self-help, partnerships, identifying and capitalizing on existing assets, quality, change and implementation.



COMPREHENSIVE: No single focus can revitalize Main Street. For successful, sustainable, long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach is essential.


INCREMENTAL: Successful revitalization programs begin with basic activities that demonstrate that “new things are happening “ in the commercial district. As public confidence in the Main Street district grows and participants’ understanding of the revitalization process becomes more sophisticated, Main Street is able to tackle increasingly complex problems and more ambitious projects. This incremental change leads to much longer-lasting and dramatic positive change in the Main Street area.

SELF-HELP: Main Streets do not need to rely on other organizations to help the downtown area. Local leaders must have the will and desire to mobilize local resources and talent themselves. Only local leadership can produce long-term success by fostering and demonstrating community involvement and commitment to the revitalization effort.

PARTNERSHIPS: Both public and private sectors hold interest in the district, therefore they must work together to achieve Main Street’s revitalization. Each sector has a role to play and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations in order to forge an effective partnership.

IDENTIFYING AND CAPITALIZING ON EXISTING ASSETS: Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities, like distinctive buildings and human scale, that give people a sense of belonging. These local assets must serve as the foundation for all aspects of revitalization.

QUALITY: There must be an emphasis on quality in every aspect of the revitalization program. Shoestring budgets and “cut and paste” efforts reinforce a negative image of the commercial district. Instead, concentration must be placed on the quality of projects versus the quantity of them.

CHANGE: As the Main Street program grows and consistently meets its goals, public support for change builds. Change requires engaging in better business practices, altering ways of thinking, and improving the physical appearance of the commercial district. A carefully planned Main Street program will help shift public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalization process.

IMPLEMENTATION: In order to succeed, Main Street must show visible results in the form of completed projects. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding. Small projects at the beginning of the program pave the way for larger ones as the revitalization effort matures, and that constant revitalization activity creates confidence in the Main Street program as well as growing levels of participation.