During Main Street Alabama’s recent Awards of Excellence program, Mary Reed of Heritage Wiring was awarded the “Community Hero” award from MSA’s president and state coordinator, Mary Helmer Wirth, recognizing Reed for all her dedication and work on Fort Payne Main Street and in the community. She serves as a Fort Payne Main Street board member and as chair of the organization’s design committee.
In a press release about the annual awards program honoring projects and individuals that made tremendous impacts in their respective communities, MSA spokesperson Tricia Black said, “Mary spent many hours with the City team to create the Chandelier Tree as part of the ‘Small Town that Shines’ project and the Ida Goza Story window wrap on the Quinn building as part of the ‘Our Common Thread’ project.”
The Ida Goza Story wrap also earned an award for Excellence in Preservation while ‘The Small Town that Shines’ chandelier tree received the award for Excellence in PlaceMaking. Additionally, the Life’s Journey Reflection and Meditation Garden inside the Alabama Walking Park received the award for Excellence in Planning/Public Space.
Alabama Municipal Electric Authority sponsored the event that was held at The Venue at Coosa Landing in Gadsden. The event drew more than 150 community leaders from across Alabama. It was held the evening before Gov. Kay Ivey proclaimed August 20 Main Street Alabama Day to recognize the efforts of the organization that is focused on creating jobs and keeping character in communities across the state.
“It’s an honor to recognize these outstanding community projects, leaders and volunteers,” Wirth said. “The award winners represent the resiliency of downtown and commercial neighborhood districts in spite of a challenging year. Main Street programs were instrumental in helping small businesses navigate through closures due to the pandemic and helping them to reopen safely with outdoor eating options, hand sanitizing stations, foot door pulls, masks and more. The effort and leadership it takes to move these projects quickly is tremendous.”
Connie Fuller is Fort Payne Main Street’s interim executive director and Darlene Rotch is the organization’s president. The rest of the board includes Vice President John Dersham, Secretary Donna Chesser, Treasurer Steve Malcolm, Economic Vitality Chair Sharon Barnes, Economic Vitality committee members John T. Davis and Randy Posey, Johnny Eberhart representing the Fort Payne City Council, volunteer coordinator Ken Mayo, Cathy Perez over promotions and Reed, who chairs the design committee. Lynn Brewer, Matt Pozak and Andrew Hairston serve on an advisory council.
The Awards of Excellence recognized winners in the categories of preservation, historic rehabilitation, fundraising, public relations, public/private partnerships, business development, economic impact, adaptive reuse, promotion, business promotion, marketing, placemaking, non-historic building design, and planning & public space.
Local Main Street programs also selected a Main Street Hero that honored an individual, business or organization that made an outstanding contribution to their program. The Awards of Excellence banquet is a highlight of a three-day conference that bolsters the efforts of communities participating in the nationally acclaimed Main Street program or those communities interested in downtown revitalization.
Main Street Alabama has 29 Designated Programs and over 30 downtown network communities: Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Atmore, Birmingham’s Historic 4th Ave Business District, Calera, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Headland, Heflin, Jasper, Marion, Monroeville, Montevallo, Opelika, Oxford, Scottsboro, South Huntsville, West Huntsville and Wetumpka.
Each of these communities have designated programs and new communities will be added annually. Application workshops will be held in January for communities interested in becoming a designated program will be available in spring 2022. Until then, communities interested in downtown revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama’s Downtown Network.
Rotch and Fuller gave a presentation last week to the Fort Payne City Council. They said other communities have taken notice of the improvements to downtown and asked questions about imitating the city’s success.
The City has appropriated $331,000 to the group since 2016 and is set to give them $50,000 more for 2021. Rotch said the investment has resulted in $4.8 million in real estate purchases and improvements made to downtown buildings, based on information they collected from merchants while going door-to-door inquiring.
She listed various things FPMS had done, including the above mentioned projects, recruiting FC Weiss and Roadside Que, creating a star for the group Alabama on a walk of fame, operating Boom Town Makers Market, and participating in projects like the Boys in the Band fundraising concerts, Pete the Cat Day and Pete’s Alley, creating a mural, obtaining grants for store owners, and rebranding Fort Payne as “Alabama’s Mountain Town” to appeal to out of town visitors.
“There’s excitement about what’s happening downtown and a camaraderie among the merchants,” Rotch said. “And the best is yet to come once we get COVID over. We are hoping this latest surge will not impact our downtown store owners any more than it already has. We are praying for that because there are a couple of other amazing things that are on the verge of happening.”
Editor’s note: In a story in the August 21 edition, it was mistakenly reported that the City of Fort Payne appropriated $100,000 to Fort Payne Main Street. The actual yearly appropriation has been $50,000, although there was discussion at a work session last week about increasing what the organization might receive in the final adopted budget.