Not sure how this place eluded my classical radar, but Starkville, Mississippi, home of Mississippi State, has a neighborhood called the Cotton District, between the downtown of the city of 23,000 and its university campus. Wikipedia calls it the nation’s first New Urbanist district, but it was conceived by Dan Camp, a former shop teacher, 20 years before the Congress of the New Urbanism was chartered, and at least 15 years before the development of Seaside, Florida – long considered the first New Urbanist town.
Dan Camp, according to this history of the Cotton District on its website, started building on a shoestring for students (also mostly living on a shoestring), and ended up with a lovely, thriving place that I feel embarrassed never to have heard of. He eventually became mayor of Starkville for a while.
A passage at the conclusion of the history (written by Dan Camp), makes an extraordinarily important point: “Presentations are still made to the Planning Commission and the Board of Alderman for setbacks and lot variances. However, it becomes easier and easier each time, as the true feeling and beauty of the area have become evident.”
The permitting and design approval process drives developers nuts in so many places, including Providence, because in most places planning officials do not learn. They do not learn that if developers build what people like, permitting goes down like an oyster. They prefer, for some reason, to build junk, and when resistance arises, they slog through the permitting process and then go home and cry into their beer.
Architect and planner Sara Hines, figuring I might need some story ideas, sent me a couple today, including one on Dan Camp’s Cotton District. The pictures here are hers. I don’t even need to write about the beauty of the place. The photos say it all. And there are many more at the Cotton District website linked to above.
This post is published with my thanks to you, Sara, for so many reasons – not least of which is that the Cotton District has now been pushed into the ambit of my radar.