Okolona Corner Park
In 1999, the Small Town Center worked with the City of Okolona on the design and construction of a “Common Ground” downtown park. The project was the result of a third-year studio taught by Shannon Criss and Nils Gore in the spring of 1999. Citizens envisioned a park that would bridge the gap between their once racially segregated town and would be a place that neither race would “own”. The project was funded by the CREATE Foundation, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Chickasaw County, the City of Okolona, and the contributions of many concerned citizens and businesses.
The Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized this project with a 1999 Design Honor Award.
Comprehensive Master Plan
In January 2020, the Small Town Center (STC) kicked off a nine-month planning process which resulted in a master plan for the City of Okolona, a small town of 2,603 people in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. This visioning plan served as an update to the City of Okolona's 40-year-old Master Plan. The new Master Plan, funded by the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC), set forth a 20-year vision for this small Mississippi community and established goals and objectives for land use, housing, transportation, community facilities, and economic development.
NSPARC provided economic development analyses for five projects that were included in the plan to help local stakeholders prioritize development decisions. These five projects were chosen based on community discussion and included: blight removal and renovation, development of upper story residential properties in downtown, commissions to local artists, and the infill development of single family and multi-family structures.
The Okolona Master Plan is the result of community engagement activities and public outreach initiatives which were responsive to the specific needs of the Okolona community. Community engagement was held both in person and virtually due to COVID-19. These efforts found a community which was overwhelmingly supportive of positive change. The Okolona Master Plan represents a successful model for community visioning and planning for small towns and rural communities in Mississippi. This project shows how planning can serve as a catalyst for future partnership, as the City is already working in partnership with the STC and MSU to implement the adopted strategies for economic growth.