R’land designates W. Jackson Street commercial area Railroad District

To quote Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Ridgeland officials and Old Town stakeholders, on the other hand, are hoping that a name change will make a difference in the city’s historic district.

The Ridgeland board of aldermen voted to adopt an ordinance renaming Madison Drive, from School Street to the northern city limits, to Old Town Crossing.

The ordinance will also give official names for areas in the historic district, including Old Town Ridgeland, the Railroad District of Ridgeland and the Plaza at Old Town Crossing.

Mayor Gene McGee said this is in line with the city’s vision of giving that area more of a downtown vibe.

The Railroad District of Ridgeland was the name selected for the business district that runs along West Jackson Street. The Plaza at Old Town Crossing is the plaza and pavilion area on the same street, where city events are held.

Jackson Street in Old Town Ridgeland was named after General Andrew Jackson and was platted in the original Ridgeland plat circa 1899. Officially naming these areas is a way for the city to maintain the historical value of the area.

Members of the Historical Society, a representative from Mississippi Development Authority, Ridgeland city officials and business owners in that area met to discuss options for the official names for the historic district.

“I think it’s great,” McGee said. “We wanted something that would be of significance and long-lasting. It’s all within a plan of what we want to do with Jackson Street and developing more of a downtown area.”

Chance McDavid, asset development division director with the Mississippi Development Authority, facilitated the discussion portion of the meeting.

The group identified core values to help with the naming process:

• The area should serve as a productive business center.

• The area should be a tourism destination, especially for shopping and dining with an emphasis on evening activity after 5 p.m.

• The name should maintain the integrity and historical value of the area.

• The area should serve as a potential physical bridge or linkage between “old” and “new” Ridgeland.

• The area should be aesthetically pleasing that reflects a sense of pride in the community.

• The area should seek ways to involve and respect stakeholders and citizens.

From the discussion of those core values, two potential names were identified as the top contenders for the historic district: Old Town and the Railroad District.

The Railroad District of Ridgeland was the name ultimately decided on by the group as their top pick for the name of the larger historic district, which is the business district that runs through the area residents know as Old Town.

The Plaza at Old Town Crossing was their pick for the plaza and pavilion area of the historic district, located on West Jackson Street. This was the frontrunner because it honors the “Old Town” name.

McGee said the city will eventually install signage.

“We have lots of things planned,” he said, including intersections, brick appearances, on-street parking and new lighting.

“We want something really unique with the design,” McGee said. “I would like to see string lighting over the road in some areas. I think we can work it out for on-street parking and make it a local, downtown area.”

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