Downtown Athens' Future is Bright with Organized Efforts

Encouraging economic development, redevelopment and improvement of the historic downtown area is Spirit of Athens’ mission.

A mission that, along with the guidance of Main Street, will become a reality. Main Street, a part of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, works by implementing an incremental, comprehensive strategy focusing on Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Restructuring.

Main Street teaches us that all four points need to be working to have successful results. It’s a balancing act to keep all energy from focusing on just one area.

Design focuses on decorations, lighting, offering design assistance, and keeping the overall look or image of Athens in the forefront. Organization involves keeping the program sustainable. Promotion deals with making downtown a tourist destination, while economic restructuring helps to retain existing businesses and recruiting new businesses.

Main Street has successfully guided nearly 2000 communities nationwide in their revitalization efforts.

Spirit of Athens was formed in 2006 without the guidance of a state Main Street program. During the past year, SOA has been working with the Alabama Historic Commission to meet the qualifications of becoming a certified program when Alabama Main Street launches in January 2010. Qualifications include an extensive inventory of the downtown area, city/county support, active board of directors, working committees, and a strategic work plan.

This will be a great opportunity to tell Athens’ story along with the other 13 communities being considered for participation in Alabama Main Street. Communities not already involved in the process will not be considered into the program until the end of 2010.

There have been organized efforts in the past, but without community support, revitalization won’t happen. Now the momentum is changing, and the community sees the importance of having a vibrant retail mix, safe walkable streets, preserving historic characteristics, and promoting downtown Athens as a destination.

To become a member of Spirit of Athens, call 256-278-6436 or email tblack@athensal.us. For more information, please visit the website at www.spiritofathens.com.


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The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) has awarded a 2009 Distinguished Service Award to Spirit of Athens. The Distinguished Service Award is awarded annually to individuals and groups whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation.

Alabama’s Main Street organizations are demonstrating that historic preservation plays a key role in downtown revitalization and economic development, in tourism, and in overall community health. At the same time, these volunteer led organizations are saving hundreds of downtown commercial buildings, with ripple effects that extend to nearby historic homes and neighborhoods, and outlying farmhouses and former plantation homes. The volunteer leadership of these organizations have persevered in the face of the economic downturns, profound demographic changes, and shifting political winds at the local level. The work they do is not only helping use historic buildings as assets, but is helping to make Alabama a better place to live and visit.

Main Street is a community-driven program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that is used to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts throughout the United States.

The AHC presented the award on Friday, October 9 during this year’s Alabama Preservation Conference in Auburn.

Visit Spirit of Athens website for more information on the organization.

To protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places is the mission of the Alabama Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office.


Paint Night to support Spirit of Athens!

On Thursday night, November 12th is a special Carole Foret Fine Art Paint Night! Join in and have a great time painting our beloved downtown Courthouse while supporting The Spirit of Athens! For Carole's normal tuition fee of $75 per person, half the proceeds that night will support SOA and the downtown revitalization efforts.
All you do is call Carole's Studio with your tuition fee, then show up at her downtown studio at 5:30 that night! Bring nothing! Enjoy hors d'oeuvres and mingle, then we'll begin painting at 6 and paint till 8. We'll shoot a group photo, then you leave with your own Courthouse masterpiece! Absolute fun! Reserving NOW: 256.232.2521