The first New Urbanism project — anywhere — is sometimes considered to be the Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi as its development began in the ’60s. These are pics we took from our visit this summer. I really thought the first New Urbanism community was Seaside but…
When Dan Camp, the developer, was invited to speak at the Congress of New Urbanism annual convention this summer, he was described as a Renaissance Man:
Buildings close to the street, sidewalks, picket fences, and concealed vehicles all contribute to the unique community of The Cotton District located in Starkville, Mississippi. Boasting a twenty-eight person per acre population, The Cotton District portrays the ideals of “new urbanism” as developed by Dan Camp, community visionary. Now the hottest real estate in Starkville, The Cotton District was once one of the most deplorable areas of this Northern Mississippi town. In 1972, Camp began developing and constructing a student-centered community to house students of Mississippi State University. What began as eight apartments have blossomed into a whole community including retail spaces, restaurants, and living quarters that over four hundred people call home.
After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1962, Dan taught Industrial Arts in the Mississippi public school system and returned to Starkville to teach at Mississippi State in the Department of Industrial Education in 1966. Dan served on the Starkville Public School Board for fifteen years and was chairman three times. During the spring of 1987, Dan and his wife Gemma recognized local artists and musicians in their home. From a small gathering of people this event has grown into the Cotton District Arts Festival attracting over 12,000 people to Starkville each April.
Dan served as mayor of Starkville from 2005-2009 and took his ideas about community development from his neighborhood of the Cotton District to the entire city. Examples of specific accomplishments are: new Park and Recreation facilities, during his term the City of Starkville was recognized as one of 40 cities nationwide for the distinction of a “Smart growth city” by the EPA, adopted the State of Mississippi’s first sustainability policy to promote “green” development for the city’s future and requiring LEED certification for any public building in excess of 3,000 square feet, centering the electric department building in a blighted area of down town to help revitalize the area, the city became the first non-smoking community in Mississippi, the addition of cold beer to the community, adding bike lanes to the City of Starkville, established the first community dog park in Mississippi.
Dan has been recognized for his development through multiple publications and was awarded the first Arthur Ross Award for Community Design by Classical America. He has spoken at numerous Smart Growth and Community Development Conferences where he has shared his experience with others.