By Jody Stewart
The Chambers County Development Authority along with the city of LaFayette is implementing a new program called Main Street America to breath life back into the tired streets and buildings of LaFayettte. November 12th at 5pm there will be an informative meeting at City Hall revealing the motions that must take place for this to occur.
The phrase small town America pops up in everything from song lyrics to political speeches. For most the term small town America brings images of a close-knit community, a safe place where everyone knows everyone, a town teeming with those who rely on each other like loved ones.
One of the best attributes of any small town is Main Street. Main streets in small towns are not a location for fast foods or chain retail instead small town main streets should be filled with picturesque ice cream stores, eateries, antique shops, bed-and-breakfasts, and hold special annual events for families to attend.
Many years ago LaFayette was this picturesque small town. Many family owned businesses lines the streets and most of the surrounding Chambers County residents did their business in town with people they knew. But like many small towns across Alabama LaFayette fell victim to near by big box companies and found the younger generations moving away to larger cities.
But like they say all things come back in fashion, and now people are once again finding value in the small town life style. New parents want to raise their kids back in simpler surroundings and people do not want to fight the crowds and traffic in larger cities.
Other cities across Alabama including Eufaula, Elba, Florence, Fort Payne, Oxford, and Opelika have seen great success with the Main Street Alabama Program. These cities have seen a positive improvement in the appearance of their small towns along with growth in retail business and tax revenue.
The goals of the Main Street programs are more than having great events and making downtown look better. At its core, Main Street is an economic development tool that enhances the tax base of a community, fosters entrepreneurship, builds community capacity, and creates partnerships among key groups in a community.
Chris Busby, Director of Commercial & Community Development stated, “ I hope that we will see a change in our city. I believe that Main Street Alabama can come in here and help our city move forward.”
Charlotte Blasingame City Councilwomen stated, “I am excited that as a team we will be working together moving our city forward.” Rebuilding the fallen momentum in LaFayette will not happen over night.
Main Street American tackles the project in a four-step approach. First is establishing organization. Volunteers will need to be recruited which will collaborate with a governing board of directors. Together they will make up the fundamental organizational structure of the volunteer-driven revitalization programs. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director.
The second step will be promotion. The goal is to create a positive image that will rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in the LaFayette commercial district.
Third phase will be design, which means getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the district’s physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems.
The Chambers County Development Authority is encouraging LaFayette residents to attend the November 12th meeting which will further explain the Main Street Alabama Project.
“This is a great opportunity for our small town.” Says Mrs. Blasingame. “We want to hear from the citizen of Lafayette.”
“We want to know what improvements they want to see. We want to know how they would like their city to look and feel,” added Busby.