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Community members meet at the Historic Roxy Theatre Sept. 6 to learn and discuss next steps for Downtown Russellville in the Main Street Alabama program including (from left) Sherry Smith, Chase Sparks, Trisha Black, Julie Herring McKinney and Mitch McKinney.

Russellville meets to discuss next steps for Main Street Alabama

Downtown Russellville and Trisha Black, assistant state coordinator of Main Street Alabama, hosted a community meeting at the Historic Roxy Theatre Sept. 6 to share information and discuss next steps for Russellville, which was recently approved as a pilot city for a new level of Main Street – the Aspiring tier.

Under the Main Street Alabama program, Aspiring is available in 2023 for qualifying communities.

The new tier is a one-year track intended to prepare communities for designation as official Main Street communities while also building capacity, establishing organizational structure and putting volunteers to work on short-term projects.

Main Street Alabama focuses on bringing jobs and people back to Alabama’s historic communities. According to the organization’s website, mainstreetalabama.org, the heart of the organization’s efforts is in economic development – to revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods across the state.

Those who attended learned about the Main Street Four Point Approach: economic vitality, design, organization and promotion. They also had the opportunity to share input on activities and projects for the downtown district. That feedback will guide the group in establishing short-term goals.

Among the topics discussed were possible special events, including what other downtowns in Alabama have done, as well as branding and promotion.

Community members in attendance were asked to share their thoughts, including what they think is great about Russellville, what they want it to be known for, what the strengths and weaknesses are and what they want the downtown to look like in five years.

Downtown strengths participants mentioned included:

  • The Historic Roxy Theatre
  • Vacant spaces for use
  • Streetscapes
  • Nostalgia
  • The A.W. Todd Centre for events
  • Churches

As to what community members would like to see downtown in the next five years, among the suggestions were:

  • Coffee shop
  • Green space
  • Events, including music and movies
  • Art, including murals
  • Sports-themed restaurant
  • Ice cream shop
  • Active volunteer cleanup
  • Activities for children
  • Pop-up shops
  • Improved design aesthetics
  • Celebration of Hispanic culture

“We want to become a designated community and take downtown to the next level,” explained Russellville Mayor David Grissom. “That’s what the Main Street folks are pros at doing.”

Grissom remarked it’s “an exciting time for downtown again.”

“Main Street Alabama has been a very important part of our downtown success for many years,” added Grissom. “We’re certainly appreciative of them for that, and we’re pleased to be selected as a pilot member for the new Aspiring tier in their program.”

Among those speaking out to share their ideas was Maleia Gist, a recent graduate of Belmont University in Nashville. She has just moved back to Russellville.

“We just need community engagement and support to see our city flourish,” said Gist. “I’ve served on multiple committees. Nashville and Florence have seen a lot of growth, and I know Russellville has the potential to compete with the surrounding areas.”

Councilman David Palmer was also among those to express support for Russellville’s involvement in the program.

“I think it’s important to always try to keep a downtown as functional and integral to the whole community as possible,” said Palmer. “I’m looking forward to seeing how our downtown grows and develops through the program.”

Among those active in working to help downtown Russellville progress in the Main Street Alabama program is Julie Herring McKinney, who grew up in Russellville and moved back to town last year.

“Creating a vision statement for our downtown is something I hope we all embrace and speak into,” said McKinney. “It creates a shared energy and sense of excitement and possibility.”

Since becoming a Main Street Alabama Network community in 2016, downtown Russellville has seen improvements including an updated streetscape, eight loft apartments and a new five-room boutique hotel.

With the help of Main Street Alabama, downtown Russellville aims to retain and strengthen existing businesses, encourage the preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings, find the best uses of available properties and coordinate downtown activities.

Requirements of program participation include employment of a part-time director, attendance at Main Street Alabama trainings and tracking of the economic impact of the focus area.

Downtown Russellville is now seeking a part-time director. The job description can be found on the Newsroom page on Main Street Alabama’s website, www.mainstreetalabama.org. For more information, contact Julie McKinney at downtownrussellville@gmail.com.

Applications for those who wish to be on the Board are open until Sept. 30.

Community members are also invited to take part in an online survey, open until Sept. 16. For the English version, visit https://4eyes.io/s/8vKaw. For the Spanish version, visit https://4eyes.io/s/bvKfx.

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