The city of Foley has been selected to join the downtown revitalization effort Main Street Alabama, a program City Planner Miriam Boutwell first heard about four years ago and began working for the designation.
“I attended the Alabama Downtown Laboratory in 2014 to learn more about this program,” Boutwell said. “The city of Foley became a Network Community in 2015. Since that time city staff, elected officials and residents have attended various Main Street events and seen the results in other communities.”
Main Street Alabama is a nonprofit following a national model focused on building stronger downtown communities. The program was launched more than 40 years ago and is used nationwide.
“When a community is ready for Main Street, the time-tested Four Point Approach works,” Mary Helmer, state coordinator, said. “It brings jobs, dollars and people back to downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.”
Cities accepted into the program must present a plan for the downtown district and show the motivation to implement the plan. A simple love of the downtown area helps, too, Helmer said.
Boutwell said Foley scored big in all of those criteria.
“Our downtown is the heart of Foley,” she said. “We are fortunate to have existing, established businesses as well as new businesses locating in downtown. There are many opportunities for our beautiful historic structures to become viable and a destination for locals and tourists.”
To get started the city will establish a Main Street Board, which will be led by a Main Street director.
“The director will serve the downtown merchants to assist with their success and to recruit new businesses to open in vacant spaces,” Boutwell said. “The Main Street director and board will serve downtown property owners and business owners. Their skills will be specific to this area only, which will be a huge asset to downtown.
“Other benefits include the vast experience of the Main Street organization and their four-point approach of organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.”
The director is a paid position and the board will be made up of community volunteers, Boutwell said.
“Each city has individual needs and Main Street provides training, networking and educational opportunities to their Designated Communities,” she said. “With Main Street assistance, the local citizens can then set goals and implement program ideas to promote their downtown.”
The first year of the program will cost the city about $65,000 and is planned for the 2018-19 budget year. That will pay the director’s salary, Main Street fees and startup supplies to run the board.
Foley is one of three cities selected this year for Main Street Alabama, along with Scottsboro in extreme northeast Alabama and South Huntsville near the Tennessee line in the center of the state. According to Main Street Alabama, the effort has added 488 new businesses, 1,932 jobs, $283 million in private investments and $74 million in public improvements, and volunteers have put in 61,000 hours of time since June 2014.