Hattiesburg, Mississippi – Recently, the City of Hattiesburg was among the recipients honored during the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association’s 2020 Great Places Awards.
This awards program recognizes extraordinary examples of great planning combined with public commitment and extensive community participation.
For its location in the Hub City Historic District and for serving as home to many community events – from live music to the farmer’s market and more – Town Square Park was recognized as the recipient for the Great Public Space Award.
“Town Square Park’s inclusion on the American Planning Association’s 2020 List of Great Places is a testament to the vision and work of so many community leaders who came before us,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “Over the course of nearly 25 years, people like Dr. Eddie Holloway, J. Ed Turner, Ed Blake, Sally Hughes, Sarah Newton and the persistent citizen leadership of the Hattiesburg Downtown Association have transformed a vacant lot into the heartbeat of community and entertainment in our city. This award pushes us to aspire further and cast an even greater vision for Town Square Park, Gordon’s Creek and our entire city.”
Additionally, the chapter’s outgoing president made a special presentation for three awards given posthumously to “giants in the field” for their impact on the planning industry. One was designated for Hattiesburg’s own – Kévin Jordan.
Jordan was honored for his tireless work on behalf of the citizens of Hattiesburg for 13 years as well as his work with members of the American Planning Association to increase transparency and the inclusion of all voices within the statewide chapter. Jordan passed away in April due to complications with COVID-19.
“Of all the losses we have felt this year, Kévin Jordan’s has been one of the hardest for our city,” said Barker. “He was beloved by his co-workers and his clients, and there remains a great absence in his department and throughout City Hall. This honor bears further witness to Kévin’s legacy.”
Both awards were presented during a virtual presentation on December 9. For more details about the APA or the awards program, visit http://www.apamississippi.com/.
About Town Square Park
Town Square Park is located in downtown Hattiesburg within the Hub City Historic District, adjacent to two Historic Neighborhoods. The park, which the former site of First Baptist Church founded in 1884, sits on the banks of Gordon’s Creek, a natural creek that meanders throughout Hattiesburg.
The evolution of Town Square Park began in the 1990s after the lot sat vacant for more than 20 years. The City of Hattiesburg decided it would be an ideal setting for a neighborhood park reminiscent of historic town squares. The owner and developer, J. Ed Turner, generously donated the property to the City.
In 1996 the improvement plans for the space began in earnest, when the site was cleaned up, a walking trail built, and 1900s style park benches, and reproduction antique light fixtures were installed. Later, a gazebo and three-tiered fountain were added as special features. Festivals and events started to pick up around 2004, and in 2014 a local architect donated a design for a permanent stage.
The Gordon Creek Master Plan spurred the addition of the pedestrian bridge and initial development of the Gordon Creek pathway. Now, 24 years later, Town Square Park has grown in popularity to host a wide variety of active and passive uses. The City estimates that in 2019 approximately 100,000 people visited Town Square Park for the many events throughout the year.
Now a center of Hattiesburg culture, Town Square Park has firmly established itself as a community center for this city. It has been a critical part of the Downtown revival, as more and more businesses have come to the area following the residents and visitors attending to the increasingly popular public events. Town Square Park has improved livability for residents, enhanced the local economy, and capitalized upon the restored natural resource of Gordon’s Creek.
About Kévin Jordan
Kévin Jordan served as the housing coordinator for the City of Hattiesburg’s Urban Development department, where he worked for 13 years.
Kévin passed away in April at the age of 58 from COVID-19. Upon his passing, Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker summed up Kévin’s spirit and his love for people when he said, “Kévin Jordan believed in going the extra mile to help people, and many in our city benefited from his compassion, work ethic, and high standard of excellence.” Mayor Barker went on to say, “When we hear from clients who are receiving help with housing, Kévin was always the one they would praise who went the extra mile and checked on them.”
One of Kévin’s co-workers recounted, “You knew when you encountered Kévin, who he was. He was genuine, kind, trustworthy, compassionate, considerate, and dependable. He was a friend to all. When no one was looking, Kévin remained rooted in his moral foundation. He always thought of others and he would help anyone he could. He had the biggest heart. Always giving, praying, encouraging, and a good Samaritan. He was selfless and rooted in principle and equality for all.