Main Street Alabama this week selected four cities for inclusion in its revitalization program — Birmingham’s Historic 4th Avenue Business District and the cities of Calera, Enterprise and Headland.
According to Mary Helmer, State Coordinator for the program, Main Street Alabama will immediately begin providing each town with intensive board development, goal setting, work planning, market study with implementable economic development strategies, targeted technical assistance, and quarterly training related to downtown development.
4th Avenue was the first district in Birmingham added to the National Register of Historic Places in the early ’80s. Anchored by the Colored Masonic Temple, the Carver Theater, the Pythian Temple (Alabama Penny Saving Bank), and the Civil Rights Institute, the district was designated a national monument by President Barrack Obama.
Originally known as Buxahatchie, Calera was transformed by the railroad, beginning in 1848, when the Alabama Tennessee River Railroad began laying tracks. The area became a center for lime production. Calera is still a major producer of lime, which is shipped all over the Southeast. It is also the location of the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum.
In the agricultural lap of the Wiregrass, Enterprise is best known for its boll weevil monument. It is a tribute to the concept of crop diversity that was most prominently promoted by George Washington Carver, which redeemed the region’s economy by turning to peanut production.
The city once known as Head’s Land, also in the Wiregrass, was laid out by James Joshua Head in 1871, comprising a public square, storehouse and both residential and commercial lots. The public square, which is anchored by a gazebo and the first example of public art in the county, a statue called “Spirit of the American Doughboy”, is the home for community events and activities. With the addition of the railroad in 1893, the community began to thrive on trade in cotton, lumber and eventually, peanut processing.
The four new cities announced this week join growing roster of Main Street communities: Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Birmingham, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Heflin, Marion, Monroeville, Montevallo, Jasper, Opelika, Oxford, Scottsboro, South Huntsville and Wetumpka.
Each Designated community reports their success by tracking reinvestment statistics. Main Street Alabama’s Designated communities have reported 379 net new businesses, 2,364 net new jobs, $303,975,745 in private investment, $83,284,171 in public improvements, and 78,992 volunteer hours in their districts collectively since June of 2014.
Main Street Alabama will continue to add new communities annually. Application Workshops to become a Designated Community will be held again in January 2020. Until then, communities interested in downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama’s Network.