How Atmore became a designated community

Pride of Atmore Executive Director Foster Kizer, right, chats with Anne Marie Bryan, left, Monroeville Main Street Executive Director, and Main Street Alabama President and State Coordinator Mary Helmer, center.

Special to Atmore News

On Tuesday, June 23, Atmore’s Main Street Alabama new program launch was held for the public and media as Atmore joined 27 other Alabama communities with this designation.

Atmore became affiliated with the Main Street Alabama program through the Network tier in 2015. At this introductory level, members become more familiar with the program, attend training workshops at a discounted rate, and are given the opportunity to visit other Designated cities to see first­hand the success of Main Street. Earlier this year, after meeting many milestones including securing funding for many projects in the district, and realizing the need to move forward with Designation, the steering committee, that included representatives from the City, Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, and Pride of Atmore, attended application workshops in Enterprise, Birmingham, and South Huntsville.
By March when the pandemic hit, the committee decided to move forward with the application as they felt the Main Street Alabama program was needed more than ever due to the impact of COVID-19 on their small businesses. By expressing the need for Main Street and the capacity to maintain a program, Atmore officially became a Main Street Alabama Designated community in June 2020.
The Atmore Steering committee and respective organizations have participated in past revitalization efforts including getting the downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and kicked off a $3.2 million restoration in 2020 of the 99-year-old Strand Theatre, and 121-year-old adjacent building, the former Atmore Hardware Store, into an Arts and Cultural Center. Collaborative efforts have also included the addition of green space to the district, wayfinding, and facade improvements, to name a few.
The committee stated in their application that “Atmore is confident that the Main Street program will provide an increased downtown renewal and lifestyle renaissance that has begun in the district.” Members of the steering committee include representatives of the City, including Mayor Jim Staff, Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, Pride of Atmore, Atmore Rotary Club, Atmore Lions Club, and downtown business owners.
Although recent safety precautions related to COVID-19 prevented the typical town hall style meetings to introduce the community to the program and build excitement, Emily Wilson, Chamber director, sent out emails to over 3,000 members and area stakeholders, along with one-on-one conversations with business owners in the district. Working on the application looked a little different too as the committee relied on ZOOM calls to work on the extensive application line-by-line. During the online interview with the new city selection committee, the group showed a nearly 14-minute video featuring Emily Wilson, Atmore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, and local realtor Bub Gideons, and showcased local businesses, district employees, and residents calling Main Street Alabama to come “all aboard” and discover Atmore. Following the online presentation on May 28, the selection committee tallied the score of the presentation along with the application and made its recommendation for Designation to the Main Street Alabama Board of Directors. Main Street Alabama made the official announcement on June 5 …
On September 1-3, the Main Street Alabama Resource Team will visit and listen to the community, coupling their ideas with both short and long-range plans in each of the Four Points (Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Vitality). These plans will be unveiled during a public presentation on Thursday, September 3.
Atmore joins Anniston, Alexander City, Athens, Birmingham, Calera, Columbiana, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Headland, Heflin, Historic 4th Ave Business District, Jasper, Marion, Montevallo, Monroeville, Opelika, Oxford, Jasper, Scottsboro, South Huntsville and Wetumpka as Designated Communities in Alabama.