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Demopolis, Alabama, leaders focused on revitalizing historic downtown

When the nonprofit group Main Street Alabama announced June 1 that it would partner with the city of Demopolis to support efforts to revitalize its downtown, it was hard for local supporters to contain their excitement.

“Downtown is our heart,” said Rhae Darsey, executive director of Main Street Demopolis, the local organization dedicated to re-energizing the historic city’s downtown area. “We’re hoping to bring it back to somewhere people want to be.”

Indeed, it didn’t take long for the excitement to turn to action. On June 28, local leaders and interested citizens gathered with experts from Main Street Alabama for a workshop and celebration – and to start putting to paper a plan to move downtown forward.

Demopolis excited to be part of Main Street Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Among those actively and enthusiastically participating in the workshop was Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins. Months earlier, Collins was approached by Darsey and Diane Brooker, community relations manager for Alabama Power’s Western Division, about seeking Main Street Alabama’s support. Collins said the two “loaded me up” with information and then “carried” him to Jasper, another small Alabama city that has had success working with Main Street Alabama. Collins said Jasper Mayor David O’Mary told him emphatically to “listen to these people,” because the Main Street program really works.

Mayor Woody Collins addresses attendees at a downtown workshop. (contributed)

“Our job is really to teach a community how to fish,” said Mary Helmer Wirth, president and state coordinator of Main Street Alabama. She said the group can help the city with planning and identifying grants and other resources, but mostly it is “working with the people in the community to make their community better.”

Brooker, a Demopolis resident who has long been active in the community, said supporting economic and community development in the places the company serves is a priority for Alabama Power. Brooker was among those closely involved in putting together the comprehensive application to Main Street Alabama.

“The Main Street Alabama program is going to bring resources and support to our community to help … revitalize downtown Demopolis and increase the economic development and community growth in our area,” Brooker said.

Local small business owners said they are thrilled to have Main Street Alabama’s support, and the possibilities for greater growth and prosperity that can accompany a rejuvenated downtown.

“Anyone considering binging a business to downtown Demopolis, I say come on – we’re really excited,” said Dr. Brittney Anderson, whose pediatric and family practice is in the heart of the city.

Anderson said she has viewed historic photographs of Demopolis that show how vibrant downtown once was, and she hopes for a reinvigorated downtown with more options for dining, shopping and entertainment.

“We’re really excited about Main Street Demopolis and the great things in our future,” Anderson said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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