Hinesville recently was selected by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as one of 19 cities to join the state’s Main Street start-up program, according to a GDCA news release.
Hinesville and other cities, such as Albany, Perry and Swainsboro, will join 96 cities across the state already in the Main Street program. According to the release, GDCA Commissioner Gretchen Corbin calls the Main Street program one of the best examples of technical assistance provided by the state to local governments. Corbin said this assistance includes help with board and leadership development, creation of two- and five-year work plans, development of program budgets and preparation to meet standards established by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The focus, she said, is on four areas, including downtown design, organization of people involved, economic restructuring for preferred businesses and promoting how a revitalized downtown helps the entire community.
Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis said the Main Street designation is given to downtown districts that demonstrate they’re serious about revitalizing traditional downtowns. She added the state program is an agreement between the state and the mayor in cooperation with local businesses and volunteer organizations.
“This gives us an opportunity to concentrate on improving the historic district through beautification efforts, business and property development, promotional activities that are driven by our local business owners, residents and volunteers,” Davis said. “It is really a self-help organization, where it is the individuals that drive the program.”
Mayor Jim Thomas agreed. He called the Main Street designation a key component to the city’s efforts to revitalize its downtown area. The Main Street designation would allow local businesses, volunteers and citizens to provide input and guidance toward improving the downtown, he said.
Davis said the Hinesville Downtown Partners — a coalition of downtown businesses and city and county leaders — already is working on the criteria necessary for a designation. She said they’re the organizing group for favorite community activities like the Scarecrow Stroll and the Small World Festival, as well as several retail events throughout the year. She said the current goals include downtown beautification of historic sites.
Several downtown partners/business owners said they hope the Main Street program brings more customers to their stores, shops and eateries while attracting businesses to the area.
“The most important thing that could come from the Main Street designation is for the downtown to become a destination for local residents,” said Chrisie Hill, co-owner of Thomas Hill Jewelers, which is across from city hall on M.L. King Jr. Drive. “A lot of people in Hinesville don’t realize there are these few little businesses here in downtown. I’d love to see some more cafes, a bakery, a gift shop and some boutiques.”
As much as possible, Hill said she and her husband try to support local businesses. She wishes more people would do the same. Jeff Davis, owner of Jeff’s Confection and Bake Shop on Commerce Street, agreed with Hill about buying local. He said he tries to buy only local strawberries for one of his customers’ favorite sweet treats — fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate. He also said he buys only local honey.
“I think the Main Street designation is going to be a wonderful thing for the community for a number of reasons,” he said. “Anything that will bring attention to downtown and develop more businesses is a good thing. I would love to see more retail businesses in downtown.”
He said because the Main Street program involves landowners and businesses, more opportunities can be created to allow for the creation of more businesses. Business owners have a better idea of what it takes to attract, start up and run a business, he said.