Columbiana, Montevallo selected for Main Street Alabama program
Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
Two Shelby County cities have been chosen to take part in a statewide program aimed at breathing new life into communities through downtown revitalization.
Columbiana and Montevallo are among four new communities, including Heflin and Wetumpka, designated for the Main Street Alabama revitalization program this year.
“When a community is ready for Main Street, as these four are, our economic development program works,” Main Street Alabama President and State Coordinator Mary Helmer wrote in a June 1 press release. “It brings jobs, dollars and people back to historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.”
Each city participated in a rigorous, five-month competitive application process to be considered for the program. As news of the latest Main Street Alabama selections spread through Columbiana and Montevallo on June 1, city leaders, business owners and residents expressed excitement about the future.
“We just consider this to be a huge honor,” Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost said. “We feel like this will take us to the next level. We have a community that has really banded together to move forward and put a lot of effort into this application. We’re just really excited about what the program has to offer us, and what we can offer the Main Street program as well.”
Cost said a Montevallo Project committee, dubbed “MVP,” comprised of Chamber of Commerce members, residents, business owners and municipal leaders contributed to the city’s application.
Sarah Hogan, assistant to the mayor and marketing director for Montevallo, will become the city’s full-time Main Street director and focus her efforts on downtown revitalization projects.
“I’m beyond excited,” Hogan said. “I think this is the opportunity Montevallo needed to showcase what we’re capable of. Everyone in town today is just delighted that we’re recognized for this designation.”
Hogan said she expects the city’s involvement with Main Street Alabama to increase events and activities in the city and to enhance the positive qualities the area has already.
Helmer noted in the release that “Montevallo’s presentation team consisted of both private citizens as well as public officials and all with a thorough understanding of the Main Street Four Point Approach,” which focuses on organization, design, promotion and economic vitality.
Cheryl Patton, owner of Eclipse Coffee and Books, and president of the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce, said she has seen many businesses “come and go downtown” in the 15 years she has owned her business.
“The main thing we need is to recruit businesses,” Patton said. “The idea that we can have a more vibrant downtown is really exciting. Main Street Alabama will help us repackage it.”
Regarding Columbiana, Helmer noted the city’s “focus on revitalizing the downtown area with a business-friendly city government impressed the selection committee,” and the city’s quantifiable goal to increase downtown retail sales by 10 percent in the next few years made it stand out in the field of applicants.
“We feel like we have been able to make some positive progress in the city in the last three-and-a-half years, but we also feel like we need some outside resources and maybe just some different eyes to look at the city,” Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley said. “I would love for the city of Columbiana to become a destination city for people. I feel like becoming a designated city for Main Street Alabama, we’re now on the right track to do that.”
Like Montevallo, Columbiana boasted many people who expressed support for and worked for several months on materials and presentations for the application process.
“They all worked very hard,” Handley said of Columbiana’s committee. “We got a wonderful response from the business community and private residents. The city is co-sponsoring some of this, but this is not a city program. It has been coordinated and will be run by citizens and merchants. That’s a collaboration we’ve needed for a long time.”
Jim Davis, owner of Davis Drug Company and president of the Columbiana Merchants and Professionals Association, described the city’s Main Street Alabama committee as “very dedicated.”
“All of us felt like the city seemed stagnant,” Davis said. “We were looking for help and decided this was the route to go. This was a team effort.”
Elizabeth Smith, who has served as Columbiana’s marketing director for just a few months, said she feels honored to work and learn from local citizens and merchants.
“This will only be an asset as we move forward with the Main Street Alabama initiative,” Smith wrote. “People working together to seek a common goal can only bring out positive results. I am thrilled that we were chosen as a designated city and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Columbiana.”
Columbiana, Montevallo, Wetumpka and Heflin join Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Eufaula, Florence, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Monroeville, Jasper, Opelika, Oxford and Selma and in using Main Street’s comprehensive and incremental approach.
The cities will report their success by tracking their reinvestment statistics. Main Street Alabama’s Designated communities have reported 239 net new businesses, 2,392 net new jobs, $187,262,002 in private investment, $32,555,955 in public improvements, and 26,652 volunteer hours in their districts collectively since June of 2014.
“This, right now, is exciting, but the real work is about to began,” said Shelby County Musuem and Archives Director Jennifer Maier, who served on Columbiana’s presentation committee for the Main Street Alabama application process. “I think everybody in this town could find a way to be involved. Buy-in from people has been incredible; we just need to keep that momentum going forward.”
Main Street Alabama will continue to add new communities annually.
Applications to become a Designated Main Street Community will be available in spring 2017. Until then, communities interested in downtown revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama’s Downtown Network.
For more information, visit Mainstreetalabama.org.