by Kay Moore,
Downtown Gadsden Inc. Executive Director
The new decade rolled in as expected, but then….. COVID came along and threw everything off track. But the great news is that we survived and we are still here and going strong because that is what a positive attitude and community support can accomplish!
Prior to the March shutdown, we were able to host the 13th annual Chili Cook-off, Downtown Gadsden Gives Back, Girls Night Out, and the St. Patrick’s Pub Crawl. With the exception of September, our regionally recognized First Friday had to be canceled for 2020. We also had to cancel the Spring Preparedness event, Party with a Purpose at the Pitman, the DGI Biennial meeting, Third Thursday, and Musical Mondays. Sunset Sips, the largest DGI fundraiser that was scheduled for October, was also canceled.
Even in the midst of the pandemic, new businesses, along with renovations of various properties, continue to create excitement in the downtown area. During 2020, there were 5 property sales totaling more than $1,700,000. These sales, along with another $1,400,000 in renovations, have provided remarkable improvements in our historic district. Currently, there are 25 loft apartments located in downtown Gadsden. There are now 16 loft apartments in the planning/finishing stages which will be a total of 41 lofts, hopefully by the end of 2021. Loft living is an important factor in the growth of the downtown area and we are excited to see the progress!
During 2020, we welcomed 10 new businesses in Downtown Gadsden while 4 businesses either relocated to other areas or closed. This resulted in a net gain of 6 new businesses in the historic downtown area. These new businesses that opened during this pandemic reflect the positive attitude of the owners who believe in the strength of our downtown. They, along with the established businesses, share the vision of the Main Street community and by working together, we will continue to grow stronger.
The Main Street Alabama Conference which was scheduled to be held in Monroeville was canceled due to COVID restrictions. Mary Helmer Wirth, Main Street Alabama President, presented the awards personally to the following winners:
Main Street Hero – Catherine Martin, Exchange Bank
Excellence in Adaptive Reuse – Non-Historic – Campbell Development, 612 Broad Street Renovation
Excellence in Building Design – Jones Land Development, 430 Broad Street
Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation – Knowles & Sullivan, 413 Broad Street
Excellence in Planning/Public Spaces – After Classes sculpture, 501 Broad Street
The success of downtown Gadsden should be credited to our merchants and restaurants, who work together to make our downtown THE place to visit, shop, eat, and drink. We also depend heavily on our financial sponsors and welcome support from individuals as well. Our working partnership with the City of Gadsden, Greater Gadsden Area Tourism, Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, the Gadsden Museum of Art, and Main Street Alabama along with others allows DGI to continue to grow and prosper with small businesses in the downtown area. This in turn strengthens the entire community.
Again, 2020 has been an unusual year for all of us. The owners of our stores and restaurants have remained positive and worked hard to find new ways to do things differently. They have survived because YOU have supported them. We are grateful for that support and look forward to it continuing in 2021 by shopping downtown with our local merchants, eating in our local restaurants, and supporting local museums, hospitals, professional services, and all other locally owned businesses!
For more information, please check out our website, DowntownGadsden.com, along with our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
Small Town. Small Shops. Big Treasures. Great Tastes.