The award was presented Aug. 22 at the annual Georgia Downtown Conference in LaGrange, which brought together more than 200 Georgia downtown professionals to develop strategies for bettering their downtown business districts. The Georgia Downtown Association and the Office of Downtown Development of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, presented the awards.
The Award of Excellence is presented to the one city each year that has shown the greatest improvement in overall downtown redevelopment statistics. The Georgia Downtown Awards were established to recognize individuals, downtown programs and businesses that have demonstrated unique efforts in making a difference in their downtowns.
The award categories are based on the 4-Point Approach of downtown revitalization, as developed by the National Trust’s Main Street Center, and focus on organization, promotion, design and economic development.
“This award is the highest honor that we can receive as a main street program,” said Jessica Reynolds, Carrollton Main Street director. “I’m so proud of how much our downtown has evolved over the years and how much it is still growing. It’s refreshing to see that our downtown matters as much to our city, our county and our citizens as much as it does to us.”
The Carrollton Main Street Program has been part of the community for more than 27 years, Reynolds said, and it’s invested in preserving downtown’s history and heritage.
The program has been the recipient of five conference awards in the past four years. These have included awards for Most Creative Marketing Piece in 2009, Best Retail Booster in 2009 and 2010 and Best Design Improvement Program in 2011.
The program also set a new record by being one of the only cities to have been the recipient of the annual Award of Excellence in Downtown Development twice in a 10-year period. It was the recipient of the same award in 2003, soon after the completion of the city’s Cultural Arts Center.
Reynolds said with the addition of the new amphitheater, new justice center and the newly renovated train depot, which is due to open this fall, “we’re just now seeing the beginning of what Downtown Carrollton truly has to offer.”
This year’s opening of The Amp at Adamson Square, the city’s new $1.1 million, 700-seat downtown amphitheater, was one of the major factors in winning the award, Reynolds said.
“The role it has played in downtown development has been significant,” she said. “It’s just really added a new dimension in what the downtown has to offer.”
Shortly after the ribbon cutting ceremony for The Amp, the facility was the centerpoint of the 27th annual Mayfest festival on May 5.
“When I started here four years ago, Mayfest had 80 vendors and about 4,000 people attending,” Reynolds said. “This year, we had 170 vendors and an estimated crowd of 10,000. We’ve come so far in a short period of time.”
The Amp also hosted a series of free concerts this summer, highlighted by a performance of the country-gospel group, Diamond Rio, and a series of Thursday night family movies.
The city of Carrollton also contributed to downtown’s success by passing a new alcoholic beverage ordinance, which allows carrying of open drinks outside in the downtown area. The new law makes it possible for amphitheater patrons to purchase drinks from nearby businesses and drink them at amphitheater shows.
Reynolds also believes that keeping the county’s court activities in the downtown area was another contribution to winning the award. She noted that many counties, when faced with building a new courthouse, go outside the downtown area.
“We’re fortunate to be able to keep our courthouse in the downtown area,” she said. “The foresight of our county leaders to keep it downtown was monumental.”
Likewise, she said the decision by West Georgia Technical College to locate its administrative offices downtown was helpful. Another factor in the program’s winning the award was its downtown sign project.
“We won an award last year for the signs and markers,” Reynolds said. “We have 13 new historic downtown signs and eight new directional signs in downtown.”
The program has encouraged downtown shopping by establishing an active membership plan and discount incentives to get people into the stores.
The Main Street program changes over the past year were more than physical, there were also additions in the virtual world.
Reynolds said rebuilding of the Main Street Carrollton website and the addition of iPhone and Android apps were very important factors in improving the program’s presence.
“A lot of downtown programs struggle to keep up with technology and stay relevant with social media,” she said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a progressive board that sees the value in these new technologies.”
Reynolds said, more than anything, the award was made possible by community involvement and people coming out to support their local businesses, many which have been started during a time of economic downturn.
“It takes a whole community to save a downtown,” she said. “I don’t think any person, entity or organization can do it by themselves. It takes an effort by everyone to be successful.”
More information on Carrollton Main Street is available on its website at www.carrolltonmainstreet.com.