MSU’s Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center receives national award for comprehensive plan

By Christie McNeal | Mississippi State University

The Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University is receiving national recognition for a comprehensive plan prepared for the City of Ripley.

professional headshot of Leah Kemp
Leah Kemp

The American Planning Association’s 2019 Vernon Deines Award recognizes the CSTC’s Ripley Master Plan. The annual award is presented by the APA’s Small Town and Rural Planning division to recognize an outstanding comprehensive plan or special project for a small jurisdiction.

In 2017, the CSTC partnered with MSU’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center to create the master plan by using a new approach to small town planning that combines the CSTC’s expertise in planning, design and implementation with NSPARC’s proficiency in data analytics.

The Ripley Master Plan sets a 20-year vision for for the city and establishes goals and objectives for land use, housing, transportation, community facilities, parks, health and environment, community branding, and economic development.

“The partnership with the Carl Small Town Center and NSPARC in Ripley is the first of its kind, but one we believe to be a model for helping other communities,” said Leah Kemp, CSTC director. “Together, we have combined our resources to offer Ripley a comprehensive analysis and vision for the community.”

Allen Parrish, MSU associate vice president for research and NSPARC interim director said, “This project will give Ripley the knowledge and the tools to transform their ideas into reality. That’s what data can do for any community.”

Anna Laybourn, vice-chair for the association’s Small Town and Rural Planning division, said, “The awards committee was incredibly impressed with the Ripley Master Plan, and feels it embodies the best of small town planning. They appreciated the involvement of students in the effort, and a well-crafted final document.”

Professional headshot of Thomas Gregory
Thomas Gregory

Although the master plan is still new to the community, several recommendations already have been implemented, and the mayor’s office has indicated that others are forthcoming, Kemp said. Additionally, Kemp said many of the policy recommendations are being discussed by local leadership for implementation.

Kemp and Thomas Gregory, CSTC architect and community planner, formally accepted the Vernon Deines Award during the recent the APA Small Town and Rural Planning division awards ceremony during the National Planning Conference in San Francisco, California. The Ripley project also will be featured in an upcoming division newsletter article.

MSU’s Carl Small Town Center is a nonprofit community design and outreach component of the College of Architecture, Art and Design and its School of Architecture. The research center works to help improve quality of life and create economic opportunity in small towns by improving their physical environments.

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