The times, they are a-changin’. With a new year comes a renewed focus on a longterm project: the redevelopment of downtown Russellville.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for some time,” said Mayor David Grissom, who is spearheading the downtown revitalization. It’s been a goal, he said, ever since he came into office.
The city has contracted with NACOLG, and Grissom said the first thing NACOLG’s Nathan Willingham recommended was that Russellville put together a downtown redevelopment committee. That committee is now a reality and includes Heather Willis, Cassie Medley, Chase Sparks, Tim Purdue, Charles Canida, Jamie Harris and Matt Cooper.
“I have fond memories of shopping downtown as a kid, getting a Coke ICEE from Elmore’s and Buster Browns from Clark’s,” said Medley. “This redevelopment will give a new generation fond memories of downtown shopping and allow those of previous generations to reminisce while making new memories with their families.”
The first meeting of the downtown redevelopment committee will be held tomorrow, Thursday, at City Hall at 6 p.m. The community is invited to attend.
“This first meeting will be an introductory-type meeting,” Grissom said. Grissom will open the meeting, sharing his vision for the downtown area. The committee as well as community attendees will be invited to share their input as the city begins the long process of really bringing the downtown to life.
“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” Grissom said. “The key to it is going to be everybody working together with a common goal.”
Of course, downtown has great bones already – from small retail, to the Roxy Theatre, to community cornerstones like churches, banks, the post office, city hall and the county courthouse. But there’s also great potential – for more retail shops and restaurants, or loft apartments, or entertainment – in the form of both ever-present attractions, like the theatre, to more community events, like the Watermelon Festival. Grissom said the overall goal is simply “to make downtown the best we can make it.”
“This is going to be a lengthy process. It’s not something that’s going to be done overnight,” Grissom said. “Russellville is no different than any other small town … When the four-lane came to Russellville, a lot of our downtown businesses migrated to Highway 43. And it’s the same all over.”
The city has already begun to take steps toward redeveloping downtown, applying for available grants for assets like sidewalks and lighting. The idea, Grissom said, is to create a uniform look throughout to create great aesthetics downtown, which Grissom called “the heartbeat of any community.”
“I’d just like to see it flourish again,” Grissom said. “It makes the entire community better … If we don’t do something, it’s going to continue to decline. We don’t want that to happen.”
Although the downtown redevelopment will take a lot of money – hopefully in the form of people investing in the downtown – Grissom said the only negative he has heard so far is that some of the proposed ideas could create a parking problem.
“If we could have a parking problem again in downtown Russellville,” Grissom said, “that means we’ve done our job.”