Town of Livingston proves, ‘If you build it, culture will come’

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Just a few years ago, the area where highways 463 and 22 meet in Madison County was a fairly non-descript place with woods, pastureland and a typical country landscape. Developer David Landrum saw something more.

A history buff since childhood, Landrum was told the area, once known as Livingston, was the original county seat for Madison County. Intrigued, he took a closer look. A distinct raised square surrounded by cedar trees told him a story was just waiting to be told.

Landrum did some research and found, sure enough, that exact area was the county seat of Madison County from 1829 to 1833. It had a courthouse and a bustling little town that gradually grew, then gradually disappeared.

“The railroad moved from Livingston to Clinton and Madison, and, by the 1940s, everyone moved away and the town lost its charter,” explained Landrum.

Intrigued and fueled by the beautiful land and strong demographics of the area, Landrum began to dream, plot and plan.

“I wanted to rebuild the town,” he said.

The Town of Livingston now sits where those two highways intersect, and to happen upon it feels like going back in time. The 500-acre development features period buildings that look as if they were built in the 1830s.

“One of the first things we did was to hire architects out of Atlanta who have experience with restoration,” Landrum said. “They came up with a design to put the town back, including putting the roads back where they were before.”

Landrum explained that the town is a nine-square grid of blocks and each street in the development is laid atop the place where the original streets once ran.

To encourage people to drive out and look at the area, a weekly farmers’ market was established. Live music, cooking demonstrations and fresh local produce, grass-fed beef and farm eggs drew patrons to the property where they could see the sweeping landscapes for themselves. The first phase of building included 73,000 square feet of restaurant, office and retail space. The two restaurants, The County Seat and The Gathering, are supplied with fresh produce from the Farmacy, a small farm on the development run by Taylor Yowell. A mercantile store features the typical convenience store fare along with fresh produce and a wide selection of craft beers along with fishing tackle, bait, gardening supplies and gifts.

Gas pumps are prominent out front, but not self-serve. Instead, attendants pump gas, check tire pressure and even clean windshields. Also open in the Town of Livingston are a barber shop, a sweet shop, a florist, a spirits shop and the Farmer’s Table cooking school. Office space also is available and includes Landrum’s office for the Town of Livingston development and Primerica.

The farmers’ market is open each Thursday evening from 5 to 8 from May through October, with the live performances, cooking by area chefs and a wine garden tucked under the towering cedar trees. As the sun sets, twinkling lights illuminate the area as old friends catch up and new friends are made.

“It’s our goal to have one of the top farmers’ markets in the Southeast,” Landrum said.

A concert series was established a couple of years ago with big-name entertainment coming in for concerts on the property.

The next project at Livingston will be a chapel.

“We’ll be starting on that next week,” Landrum said.

The 1907 chapel was built as a United Methodist Church in Camden, then ended up on the campus of St. Andrews school in Ridgeland. A major expansion on campus didn’t allow enough room for the chapel, and Landrum was contacted about the possibility of moving the chapel to Livingston.

“Hopefully, it will be completed by Christmas,” Landrum said. “The chapel will be a wedding venue, as well as being offered for corporate events. We are also doing a non-denominational church plan, so it will be a functioning chapel, as well.”

Another development coming soon is a shotgun house with office space that will feature front and back porches for gathering. Construction on a two-story building with a double balcony and porch should begin in the next three to four months. The building will feature a retail space, office space and another restaurant.

“That restaurant will feature an upstairs bar and brick oven pizzas and other fare,” Landrum said.

Already, Regional Drywall Inc., has leased the office space and Tulip Floral will move into the retail space from its current space at Livingston. Also coming is Life, a boutique fitness facility and a preventative medical clinic.

The plans for the Town of Livingston continue to unfold but already include a brew pub where Livingston’s own beer will be made. Construction on residential cottages also should begin soon.

“There are several other things on the horizon,” Landrum said.

The economic impact of the Town of Livingston exceeds $100 million. More than 200 jobs have been created, and the number continues to grow with the development.

For more information on the Town of Livingston, visit thetownoflivingston.com/town-square.