Creating cool places on North Lamar

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2016

As Oxford runs out of open land, developers are starting to eye North Lamar Boulevard for future developments, both residential and commercial.

North Lamar had remained the same for many years. There was the Mid-Town Shopping Center at one end, the Beacon restaurant in the middle and three-way at the other end, with a couple of gas stations. Most of the businesses along the road have been there for years in the same location, including Handy Andy’s, Dash and Cash Pawn and Living Color.

In more recent years, a strip mall was built that is now home to Lusa’s Café’ and Sno Biz. A Dollar General went in across the street and Lamar Lounge joined the roadway a couple years ago.

Email newsletter signup

The changes to North Lamar are expected to continue over the next few years, according to city planners. However, the city’s new Comprehensive Plan, dubbed Vision 2037, has mapped out the future of North Lamar that will keep it from becoming a busy commercial strip like West Jackson Avenue.

Future mapped out

On the proposed plan, that’s expected to go before the Oxford Board of Aldermen this summer for approval, most of North Lamar is labeled “Traditional Neighborhood Business,” with the intersection of Price Street slated to be “Traditional Neighborhood Center,” and the intersection of Molly Barr Road and North Lamar, locally known by many as three-way, as an “Urban Center.”

Traditional neighborhoods often feature a small business center, neighborhood businesses like coffee shops, banks and small-scale stores. The centers provide for higher density housing with more single-family developments on the outside. There should be parks and schools nearby. They are usually new developments based on the pattern of a well-established urban center or core, like the Square, according to the Vision 2037 plan.

“It’s generally lower-scaled buildings, but with mixed-use, so you may see residential on a second floor on top of commercial on the lower floor,” said City Planner Judy Daniel.

Embracing Vision 2037

Senior Planner Ben Requet said while there is currently no actual plans up for approval on North Lamar, he and Daniel have had several conversations with developers wanting to build on North Lamar once Vision 2037 is approved and the zoning for the place types put into place.

“We’ve had conversations about projects that embrace the goals and objectives of Vision 2037 and will be better facilitated with the refinements of our land development code,” he said. “They want to bring the buildings closer to the road, have neighborhood businesses where people can work, live and play without having to get into a car.”

Requet said one of the goals of Vision 2037 for North Lamar was to create “cool places.”

“The Square is a ‘place,’” he said. “A place has identity. It has a soul.”

West Jackson Avenue is lacking that “place” feeling, Requet said, and city planners are working to make sure that doesn’t happen to the Lamars.

“You could stick West Jackson anywhere in America and not tell the difference,” he said. “The Square isn’t like that. That’s what we want more of around Oxford.”

The Land Use Types Map shows projected use for North Lamar well beyond the city limits as Traditional Neighborhood Business up until the Max D. Hipp Lafayette County Industrial Park.

Daniel said many of the developments just outside of the city limits often hook into the city’s water and sewer.

“We are just letting the county know what we think is a good land use for that area that fits our infrastructure abilities,” she said.