Above photo: A rending of the proposed Town Creek Greenway at the First Monday Trade Days site.

In August 2017, the Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) at Mississippi State University kicked off a nine-month planning process which resulted in a master plan for the City of Ripley, a small town of 5,395 people in Tippah County, Mississippi.

Funded in part by the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) in cooperation with the Tippah County Development Foundation, the Ripley Master Plan sets a 20-year vision for the Ripley community and establishes goals and objectives for land use, housing, transportation, community facilities, parks and open space, health and environment, community branding, and economic development.

For its work in Ripley, the CSTC sought to develop a new approach to planning in small towns that combined the Center’s expertise in planning, design, and implementation with NSPARC’s proficiency in data analytics for three key projects. These projects included the proposed Highway 15 Bypass, the development of loft apartments in downtown Ripley, and the construction of Town Creek Greenway.

In addition, the plan addresses key design challenges faced by the community, particularly the First Monday Trade Days site and the Tippah County Courthouse Square in downtown Ripley. The First Monday project was completed in partnership with the MSU School of Architecture’s fourth year studio. The downtown improvements were envisioned as part of the CSTC’s CREATE Common Ground class. The CREATE class implemented one of their ideas through a tactical urbanism approach, which resulted in a success story for the Ripley community. In addition to these two design projects, the CSTC generated schematic designs for a recreational greenway along Ripley’s Town Creek.

The Ripley project is the result of community engagement activities and public outreach initiatives and was responsive to the specific needs of the Ripley community. The community vision reflected in the plan, along with the findings and recommendations made in response to that vision, were all created based on input from members of the Ripley community and reflect the collaborative environment of Ripley.

The Ripley Master Plan represents the successful model for planning and design excellence that the Carl Small Town Center has established for communities in rural Mississippi.