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VOL. 119 | NO. 43 | Wednesday, March 2, 2005

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Southaven Expands Key City Service

New library reflects period of growth in heart of city


The Daily News

You could almost say the future of Southaven is an open book.

Two new regional shopping centers are in the works in Southaven, but theres another project under way that signals growth in the North Mississippi city of 30,000 residents. Southaven is preparing to expand its library into a larger, more modern facility located in a municipal park in the heart of town.

Promoting development. Southaven Mayor Greg Davis said city officials have signed off on preliminary plans to relocate the 15,000-square foot M.R. Davis Library into a 40,000-square-foot facility that will include a coffee shop and wireless Internet access.

Its the latest example of the citys efforts to promote new development. Branch librarian Linda Jowers said the new library will mark a big change from the modest facility that opened in 1962 in the town. It will include outside walking trails and recreational space and have the look and feel of a large urban library.

You see quite a bit more of this in some of the academic libraries, and Ive seen some online discussion on it, Jowers said. I think one thing the mayor was interested in is that it makes (the library) a little more of a destination library.

The citys core. The new facility will open down the street from the current library, located at 8889 Northwest Drive, to a site behind the Southaven Police Department at 8791 Northwest Drive. That puts the library in the towns 51 & Main Street area where best-selling author John Grisham once operated a law office and wrote his first book.

51 & Main Street, a group that operates as part of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce, is specifically focused on the downtown area. And the library is one of several additions and improvements the city is spearheading in the district. Davis said Southaven is offering seven-year tax breaks for improvements made to existing businesses or expansions in the 51 & Main Street area. In addition, Southaven will pay the architect fees for businesses that want to renovate, he said.

As the core of Downtown, the area is a major draw for the city. The library will be part of a municipal complex that includes Southavens City Hall, Police Department and Fire Administration. Town officials want to maintain the district as the center of Southavens government, Davis said.

Amenities. Jowers added that the library will be an attraction on its own.

Its certainly going to be larger, because we have outgrown the building were in and have no place to locate any additional expansion on our property, Jowers said. And I think itll be kind of nice being part of a city complex area there, and its a lovely site, too. I think it will open up a lot of things we can do with childrens programming and other types of events at the library building.

Part of it is, too, were expanding meeting room space, which will be of benefit to the city. Well have more computers, some wireless access available in the new building and were going to have expanded childrens facilities and a story time room. Just more of everything, basically.

She said the library will offer several other advantages.

I think one is that well be easy on and easy off once they get the expressway finished, Jowers said. And if youre at Wal-Mart or eating on Goodman Road, you can be here in no time. I think its just one more step in the citys work to keep all the areas of the city vital and growing.

Moving forward. The architect on the project is Southaven-based O. Marvin Johnson, who already has begun working with city and library officials to sketch the preliminary design. Jowers said more fine-tuning of the librarys interior will be done as work moves forward.

But we pretty much have the footprint for it and have a pretty good interior design started, she said.

Along with the planned library, Southaven has other recent commercial developments to tout. Those include Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSotos new 144,000-square-foot, $40 million pediatric center, which opened in 1999. In addition, Duke Energy Inc. has invested $200 million in a power-generating plant in the town, and the $32 million DeSoto County Civic Center opened in 2000.

Rapid growth. To Davis and other city officials, all the growth is a reflection of how Southaven has taken a leap forward in recent years. Davis said the new library is being built in a much sought-after section of town along Main Street.

When we had the option of opening another location of the library, in fact, we decided to build another and merge the two to have one top-quality library, Davis said. There really isnt much else we can do on Main Street. Businesses are staying there and finding out their customers dont want the heavy traffic associated with Goodman Road.

And growth along Main Street is a far cry from what residents could have imagined only a few years ago.

You wouldnt have thought at the time you could have projected this kind of growth, Jowers said. When I moved here, I thought we were moving to the country. You rode past empty fields, farming areas, and there was a service station here and there to get to Horn Lake. Its just unimaginable there has been this much growth.

At the time, nobody would ever have dreamed it.


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