TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Downtown Tupelo was full of old warehouses and discarded properties not long ago.
The collective imagination of some Tupelo leaders coupled with the advice of consultants gave the area of the old Tupelo Fairgrounds a new purpose.
Downtown is once again a place to gather and where a new sense of community has materialized.
"We come down several times a week and have lunch and grab coffee and swing, and to have this close is absolutely important to us," Tupelo resident Latricia Askew said.
At least $60 million in private investment can be seen in the Fairpark District in the form of restaurants, retail businesses, the Hilton Garden Inn and office space.
Former Tupelo City Council President James Williams was among those who saw the need for revitalization in downtown.
"We had grand ideas for it, and 99 percent have come true," Williams said.
Williams is among those who would throw support behind a unique and rare opportunity — the redevelopment of more than 50 acres of land to serve as the front porch of Tupelo.
The plan would require $22.64 million dollars in urban renewal bonds.
The hope was that borrowing the money for future development would lead to higher property values and a payoff in the form of property tax revenues.
Reed Hillen is a board member with the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency. It was formed to market the property and oversee design.
"Our goal is to try to put viable, private ownership, business ownership down there so that the tax base, which is slowly building up, pays for ultimately retirement of the bonds," Hillen said.
The bond payment averages $833,000 a year.
Fairpark is generating an estimated $330,000 in property taxes.
Tupelo City Attorney Guy Mitchell says Fairpark businesses Hilton Garden Inn, BancorpSouth Conference Center, Park Heights, the Grill and the Tupelo Automobile Museum generated a combined $587,000 in sales tax revenue between June 2011 and May 2012.
Fairpark appears to be holding its own, but is the development moving in the right direction?
The original plan did not include deeding land over to Lee County — land where the Community Development FoundatIon and the Renasant Center for Ideas stand.
Lee County Tax Assessor Mark Weathers estimates that land to be worth $225,000.
That property is off the tax rolls.
There is unofficial talk of another non-profit locating to Fairpark — the Tupelo-Lee County Library.
Former Tupelo City Council President George Taylor says the original plan did not call for multiple non-profits.
"It is a matter of concern the number of facilities or structures that are not paying property taxes — that would not be subject to property taxes," Taylor said.
Current Tupelo City Council President and mayoral candidate Fred Pitts says he can see the benefit of a library in Fairpark. He believes it would bring people in, but he wants there to be a limit.
"I would say if something the size of the library goes there, probably that should be the extent of what I'd like to see in Fairpark that is not on the tax rolls," Pitts said.
Staunch opponent to Fairpark from the beginning is former Tupelo City Councilman Tommy Doty.
"Of course, we know Tupelo City Hall wasn't going to pay for itself, but everything is supposed to pay for itself," Doty said.
That opinion is not shared by a number of people connected to this project, including Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association Director Debbie Brangenberg.
"You have to look at the overall whole. No, you don't want all non-profits or all of any one particular type business in a development like this. What you want is complimentary uses that bring people to the area which then spur the development of independent businesses," Brangenberg said.