For The News Courier
Athens is one of 13 communities statewide that are prepared to get on Main Street. In January, Athens will host a meeting that can help other communities in Alabama do the same.
The State of Alabama restarted its Main Street Alabama program in 2013. To accomplish that, the Alabama Historical Commission sought help from the National Trust Main Street Center for the restart. The center conducted focus groups in Athens, Atmore, Birmingham, Gadsden and Montgomery and prepared a three-year plan.
The goal of the program is to bring jobs, dollars and people to small towns and commercial districts.
"The Main Street model is a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization,” said Spirit of Athens Director Trisha Black. “At Spirit of Athens, we have followed the Main Street model for five years, and it has been essential in the success of our program. I am excited that Athens is among the select communities eligible for Main Street designation, and the only community in the Huntsville-metro area.”
Athens will host the Main Street Alabama informational meeting on at noon Jan. 15 at the Athens State University ballroom. The event is sponsored by Spirit of Athens and Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area. Main Street Alabama State Coordinator Mary Helmer will conduct the session and discuss how communities can focus on four core areas to work toward Main Street designation. Those areas are:
• Broad-based public-private community financial and volunteer support.
• Economic restructuring to align with current market opportunities.
• Design that capitalizes on distinctive historic character.
• Promotion that uses community character and identity for marketplace differentiation to attract businesses, tourists and shoppers.
“Main Street is a program that works,” Black said. “This meeting will help other communities find out how Main Street can return your downtown to the vibrant city center that it was built to be."
Registration is $15 per person, which includes lunch. Registration is due by Jan. 10. To register or for more information, contact the Spirit of Athens at 256-232-9040 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area at 256-710-8848.
The 13 eligible Main Street communities are:
Spirit of Athens
Main Street Alexander City
Spirit of Anniston/Main Street
Rev Birmingham, Inc.
Downtown Gadsden, Inc.
Downtown Mobile District Management Corp/Downtown Mobile Alliance
Opelika Main Street
Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority
Main Street Eufaula, Inc.
Fairfield Main Street, Inc.
Florence Main Street, Inc.
—Holly Hollman, director of communications for the city of Athens