New trees, shrubs and plantings could soon be going in along one of Belhaven’s major thoroughfares, thanks to efforts of two neighborhood groups.
The Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) and Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF) are gearing up to beautify Fortification Street.
The first round of improvements are expected to get under way in the first quarter of 2019 and will include beautifying the streetscape from Greymont Avenue to the I-55 intersection.
From there, neighborhood leaders hope to carry the improvements across the interstate.
“This will help define the space and beautify the city as a whole,” said BIA President Reed Hogan. “It will be great for the whole community.”
Fortification is often considered Belhaven’s main street, and ties together the Belhaven and Belhaven Heights neighborhoods, the two largest historic districts in the state.
About 18,000 vehicles travel the street each day between I-55 and North State.
The northwest corner of the Greymont/Fortification intersection was planted recently with holly hedges and flowering vitex trees.
The next areas will likely include native species, like crape myrtles, Reed said.
Plantings are being chosen by landscape architect and BIA board member Jason Buckley.
GBF and the Mississippi Main Street Association drew up plans for the Fortification streetscape a few years ago, but the plans were sidetracked until recently.
“Back in 2015, the Belhaven board of directors voted to move forward with beautification of the interstate entrance as a kind of extension of the Fortification street repaving the city had done,” GBF Executive Director Casey Creasey said.
Nearly $9 million was spent to reconstruct the road in 2012, with the project wrapping up in 2014. Work included reducing the roadway from four lanes to two lanes and a turn lane, rebuilding sidewalks, and adding lighting to improve the street’s walkability.
“Plans were developed but were never converted into a master plan,” Creasey said.
Creasey was named executive director earlier this year, after serving for a short time in an interim capacity.
She and new board chair Susan Garrard were reviewing files recently and came across the plans.
“When we took over, we started going through archives and files, and decided to pick up some of the projects that fell to the wayside,” Creasey said. “In the interim BIA had picked up some of the beautification work that was contained in the plans.
“They’ve done a fantastic job (at) the corner of Fortification and Greymont and have worked to develop plans from Greymont to the interstate,” she said.
The foundation is now partnering with BIA to put together a master plan for the Fortification entrances and exits and hopes to host a design charrette early next year to obtain input from business leaders along the street.
The charrette will likely be held early next year and will be open to businesses on Fortification on the west side of the interstate and businesses on Old River Place and East River Place on the east side of I-55, she said.
“The (Fortification) interchange is a gateway for those businesses as well,” Creasy said. “They should be at the table when we’re discussing things that will affect them.”