Main Street Alabama communities are popping up throughout the state. Here’s what you need to know

Main Street Alabama
Main Street Alabama supports local communities throughout the state. Photo via Main Street Alabama

Over the past few years, you might have noticed something called Main Street Alabama arriving in small, historic towns across the state. If you’ve ever been curious what that is, and what the organization does, we’ve got the scoop.

What is Main Street Alabama?

Alabama is full of historic communities, from Florence to Foley. Main Street Alabama began in 2009 as a way to support these communities. The aim of the organization is to preserve history, celebrate diversity, and create economic opportunity.

“Our mission is to work with downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts to revitalize those areas. In a lot of our communities, that’s the where the city began. Some of these may have a commercial district that’s adjacent to them as well. Our job really is revitalization.

We work with entrepreneurs and local businesses in these areas to make sure that they understand we want to help them be strengthened before we try to recruit any new business. Our job is to teach a community how to fish, so we provide a ton of technical support through Main Street Alabama to help them accomplish their unique goals. We’re boots on the ground, implementation-oriented”

Mary Heflin, Director, Main Street Alabama

The state organization is part of the national Main Street America, which has run programs like the ones you might be seeing in your hometowns across the country. Each Main Street Alabama group is run by community members, who apply through the state program to receive resources and coaching. The vast majority of the work within each town is accomplished by locals who want to see their home thrive.

Who are Alabama’s Main Street communities?

Main Street Alabama
Historic downtowns are a vital part of every town in Alabama. Photo via Main Street Alabama

Throughout the state, Main Street Alabama supports 29 communities, from providing technical support to helping increase growth and revenue for local businesses. See the full list:

Each of these Main Street Alabama projects is led and run by local community members, who receive guidance, resources and coaching from the statewide organization. All the work you see done in a Main Street town, from a new event to murals to small business programs, is thanks to passionate members of that community.

What to look for on your next visit to a Main Street community

Paynes Soda Shop
Downtown Scottsboro is a Main Street Alabama community. Photo via Nathan Watson for The Bama Buzz

Stop by any of the 29 Main Street Alabama communities listed above and you can see the imprint the organization makes on them, from refreshed landscaping to new murals to new events that attract both locals and tourists. Because the Main Street vision is built from community surveys, each Main Street Alabama community’s development is unique. .

Towns like Wetumpka have seen national attention, thanks in part to the revitalization efforts of Main Street Alabama. Check out our story on their recent appearance on HGTV. Other Main Street communities like West Huntsville have seen growth thanks to the public-private partnerships fostered through the program. Fort Payne’s downtown has also expanded its appeal to visitors and locals alike (namely, to more than just the band Alabama fans).

Personally, I’ve seen downtown Scottsboro make huge strides as part of the Main Street community, from the new Scottsboro Boys mural (and several others) to a summer full of festivals and massively increased community support. Growing up, the Square was nearly a ghost town, you only went there for donuts at Variety Bake Shop or a Payne’s float. Now the Square is so much more, with buzzing stores and even, yes, tourists.

Want to get involved?

Main Street Alabama
New landscaping can help draw visitors to historic downtown areas. Photo via Main Street Alabama

Main Street Alabama accepts up to four new communities a year for the full Main Street Alabama program. The application process includes several aspects of full community involvement, to ensure the goals of the project align with the goals of the community.

In the new future, you may be seeing more of Main Street Alabama than just around historic areas. They have a new license plate initiative in the works, with the goal of using funds from the car tag to give small businesses throughout Alabama grants.

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Claire Hancock
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