Tupelo’s Birthplace Trail connects the Elvis Presley Birthplace with the beauty of Downtown Tupelo
By: Jennie Bradford Curlee
What began as a dream in 2005 has finally come to fruition in 2016 for Downtown Tupelo. The Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail project was completed just days before the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival, bringing the 18-month enhancement endeavor to a close. While aesthetically, the project has changed the landscape of Tupelo’s Downtown area, it has also created a safer environment for pedestrians to enjoy the many shopping, dining, and entertainment options in this district. At its heart, the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail is about connections, linking Tupelo’s storied past with its burgeoning future.
“This project has been many years in the making,” said Debbie Brangenberg, director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. “We are so excited to see the completion of the trail that will both enhance the quality of life for Tupelo’s citizenry and improve Main Street’s tourism experience. So many have worked very hard to make this happen. It is beautiful and we cannot wait to show it off.”
With a focus on enhancing the visitor experience in Downtown Tupelo, the $11.5 million Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail included repaving and widening East Main Street to five lanes, synchronized traffic signal controls, and beautification enhancements like sidewalks with bricked pedestrian crosswalks, decorative lighting, street trees, and green spaces. A walkway extends from the heart of Downtown to the Elvis Presley Birthplace. With visitors from all over the world traveling to Tupelo to see the humble home where Elvis was born, enabling them to safely walk or bike from the attraction to a hub for dining, shopping, and entertainment adds value to their Tupelo experience.
“Tupelo is a prime destination for international visitation. Our guests from overseas are accustomed to walking and riding bicycles. The construction of the Birthplace Trail enables international visitors to walk in the footsteps of Elvis, by making the same journey from East Tupelo that he did as a boy,” said Neal McCoy, Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director. “By giving our visitors one more thing to do, we are extending their stay and creating a memorable experience in our town that will not soon be forgotten.”
Even with construction going on, Tupelo’s Downtown has seen growth over the last year. New restaurants like Mugshots Bar & Grill have opened during construction, with Vanelli’s Bistro and Anthony’s Neapolitan Pizza slated to open in 2016. Downtown has also seen new retail businesses open throughout the project including BlairHaus, Willow Bride, and Bailey Diane. Bev Crossen already had one thriving storefront in Downtown Tupelo, and despite the construction, chose to open a second business because she understood the impact that the enhancements will make for all of the area’s retailers.
“Downtown is a wonderful place to have a business and while this has been a long 18 months, we know that the enhancement project is only going to make us all stronger,” said Crossen. “I am so proud of how everything has turned out and I am thankful to the partnerships in this community that made it possible. We are open for business and can’t wait for visitors to experience the new Downtown Tupelo.”
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association hosts events throughout the year that bring locals and visitors to the downtown area. With the completion of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail, events held this summer will provide a safer environment for participants to get out and explore. The third Thursday of July, August, and September will bring the Down on Main summer concert series in Fairpark, “Tupelo’s Front Porch.” This free, live music event offers great food from local vendors and unique live music for all to enjoy.
With a brand new façade and a great line-up of things to see, do, and discover, this summer is the perfect time for a visit to Downtown Tupelo. Start planning your Tupelo trip at www.tupelo.net. The project was created to connect Elvis’ first home with Tupelo’s first business district, but more than that, the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail is connecting people who will come back to visit because of the connections made while here.