By John C. West
Dr. Butch Busby spoke about the Main Street Alabama Project at the LaFayette City Council meeting Monday night.
Main Street Alabama is a state wide nonprofit initiative that “Recognizes the importance of our downtowns in preserving history, celebrating diversity, and providing economic opportunity.”
According to Busby, the Main Street Project is meant to “Engage LaFayette and the surrounding communities in an effort to reinvigorate the downtown commercial district.”
Busby and the Vision of LaFayette Steering Committee want to use the Main Street Project to help reenergize the downtown area. This effort would “Attract citizens and visitors alike into LaFayette to shop, be entertained, to fraternize downtown, to enjoy the historic significance of LaFayette, all in an upbeat family atmosphere that will be conducive to all of our citizens and visitors alike.”
It’s a model that has seen success in other cities across the state, including both Opelika and Alexander City.
According to Main Street Alabama’s website “Historic Downtown Opelika is enjoying a return to the center of life in Opelika following a major renovation project that has restored the buildings and streets into a shopping district with a turn of the 20th century flair.”
Regarding Alex City, the website states “Main Street Alexander City is composed of dedicated citizens, business owners, government officials and other friends who recognize the important role a vital downtown plays in preserving and furthering our community’s identity, spirit and economy.”
Busby echoed this idea in regards to LaFayette. “We got lots of already existing businesses that will need our help. We got opportunities for upcoming businesses that have already made inquiries about what’s going to be happening. They will need our help.”
“The city can’t do it alone,” he continued. “The citizens certainly can’t do it alone. We’ve got to work together. And working together, I believe we can pull together one of the things that I’ve seen throughout the rest of the state, a new sense of camaraderie, a new sense of excitement a new sense of ‘we can’ rather than ‘we can’t.’”
Mayor Barry Moody agreed with Busby’s sentiment saying “I was fortunate enough to be at the last meeting, and it is just a pleasure to see the involvement that is taking place, from the beginning, in a short period of time.”
Moody was optimistic about the direction of the main street project, relating it to the societal shift from enclosed malls to open shopping districts.
“We’ve transitioned form malls. Everybody knows about the Auburn Mall, everybody knows about the Galleria. When I was growing up, it was the place to go,” said Moody. “But you got to look at places like Tiger Town. It’s not all under one roof, but sometimes when people are out shopping, they go to one store, and maybe go to another store. They just want to see what all’s going on. Maybe get a bite to eat, maybe buy something retail.”
Moody was optimistic called it “An exciting adventure that we’re about to move on with,” and “an opportunity for local business owners to grow their businesses.”
Busby also said he had gotten good news Monday night when The Vision of LaFayette Committee’s letter of intent was received and approved by state office. “We’ll be getting an application to apply for the Main Street Project. That will be due in early May of this year, so we’ve got lots of work that will need to be done.”
Busby had high praise for both the Committee’s and citizen’s involvement in the process. “We have a really good Steering Committee,” he said. “At last count we had 34 citizens of LaFayette who had attended at least one of the meetings that the steering committee has had.”
Moody agreed saying “The plan is moving forward, not just with Dr. Busby, but each and every one who has had any small part, and for those who may in the future add to that, thank you from every one of us.”
The next Main Street Alabama meeting will be on February 18th at 6:00pm at the LaFayette public library.