The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


August 28, 2006

Group hopes to revive Athens square


The Athens square is not dead, but it’s ailing.

Little, by little businesses are moving out from what used to be the main shopping district of a bustling community. A newly formed group, Spirit of Athens, hopes to restore the square to its former health by pumping new life into business while preserving its historic character.

It’s a tall order, but it’s not like reinventing the wheel. Armed with guidelines from the Main Street Committee, an organization with a four-pronged plan being employed by communities across the nation, the local group is tackling what could be a years-long project.

The four areas—organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring—attacks downtown revitalization on all fronts. Spirit of Athens is now officially a Main Street Committee affiliate. First, the group organized by adopting bylaws based on those of Main Street, chose committee chairpersons in all four areas, elected a 15-member executive board and an advisory board.

Carolyn Crow, owner of Pablo’s on Market, is board chairman. Athens Public Works Director James Rich chairs the economic restructuring committee; Regina Crawford, owner of craft and hobby shop, Crawford’s, chairs promotion; and Carole Foret of Carole Foret Fine Arts, chairs design.

Beautification begun

Even before Spirit of Athens officially formed as a Main Street Committee, other organizations in town began efforts to spiff up the downtown. Richard Martin, who has spent nearly 20 years establishing the Rails to Trails project, applied for a state historic grant to place glassed platform plaques on all four sides of the square with photos of original buildings and brief histories.

The Beautification Board and Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful went to the City Council for an appropriation to place planters around the square. Several individuals and organizations have sponsored the purchase of park benches. A few years ago, the city replaced old sidewalks with pebbled walkways as part of the Downtown Project begun by local businessman Carl Hunt in 1995.

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