Posted on Mar 15, 2016
If you're looking for leadership in how to enhance public spaces in Main Street communities, look no further than Opelika. The Railroad Town is one of four sites in America hosting two-day conferences for Main Street managers to consider that topic.
“We were proud that Alabama was one of the four states chosen, but then it was really exciting when they chose to have the conference here, because that means I am going to benefit from all of the recommendations the consultants make,” said Opelika Main Street Director Pam Powers-Smith.
Main Street America is presenting the conferences in conjunction with the National Project for Public Spaces, Powers-Smith said.
Trainers for the event are Steve Davies and Kate Rube from the National Project for Public Spaces.
“They’re doing training on what is called Creating Public Spaces,” Powers-Smith said. “It’s to engage the community in non-traditional spaces. They disperse all of the attendees to go to all of these spaces in downtown Opelika, and everyone’s going to make recommendations of what to do with those spaces.”
Attendees at the event discussed placemaking, a strategy for how to make changes in a downtown community that can create vibrancy and bring people to the area, explained Dr. Matthew Wagner, vice president of revitalization programs at the National Main Street Center.
“Nationally, what you’re seeing is a lot of trends of both businesses and people looking at downtowns as great places to live so more and more are looking across the country for downtowns as living,” Wagner said.
The training helps Opelika Main Street take its next step as the organization continues to grow and develop the city's downtown area, Powers-Smith said.
“We don’t want to add a business just to add a business; I really want to have smart growth and I want to learn from national and state leaders so we make smart decisions,” Powers-Smith said. I really want us to be trendsetters. I want us to do something cool downtown that nobody else is doing yet.”
Main Street is a powerful network of linked communities.