Demopolis looks to Main Street

Published 2:50 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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Written by Tristan Waldrop

The Demopolis Times

Friends of Downtown Demopolis director, Rhae Darsey, is leading an effort to collaborate with the non-profit organization Main Street Alabama to help revitalize downtown Demopolis. Main Street Alabama will disclose its decision on its potential sponsorship of the downtown area June 1.

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Main Street Alabama’s website self-describes its works as “an economic development tool that enhances the tax base of a community, fosters entrepreneurship, builds community capacity, and creates partnerships among key groups in a community.”

Darsey, a Demopolis High School alum, views Main Street Alabama’s program as an opportunity to attract businesses and reinvigorate the local economy.

“It’ll be a local program, and it will be affiliated with the Main Street program. It was developed on a national level, and through trial and error, they would take small towns and try to do some revitalization.” Darsey said.

Darsey also provided insight as to what the timeline and scope of Main Street Alabama’s program would look like for Demopolis.

“I think we’ll start seeing some real change immediately. But as far as like a long-time difference, I think we’re looking at about four years,” she said.

In the meantime, Darsey’s work with Friends of Downtown Demopolis is far from on hold.

“We do have some gaps in our market. And so, we’re really trying to look at where those gaps are and try to fill those,” Darsey said. “We need a good volunteer base and a good set of leaders to be on board to kind of direct the program, so we are going to be actively recruiting directors and volunteers.”

Darsey’s vision for her hometown involves a community-oriented approach of shared cooperation to restore and build upon the bedrock of Demopolis, that is, its downtown area.

“We want to do some landscape cleanup and some fluff, and we want to do something, for instance, with the windows downtown. Some of the unoccupied buildings, a lot of them have glass windows, like full storefronts that are windows. And you can see inside, which is kind of gloomy and sad,” Darsey said. “We’re raising money to try to make some aesthetic changes. We want to add speakers to the park and to be able to play some fun, laid-back music.”

Main Street Alabama represents an emergent asset for economically distressed communities throughout the state. With an emphasis on developing public-private partnerships, the organization offers a breadth of workshops, training sessions and other crucial information necessary to reverse trends of economic hardship.

At the core of Main Street Alabama is its four-point model: organization, promotion, design, and economic vitality. The non-profit organization’s track record is extensive. It boasts a list of tried-and-true relationships with twenty-seven designated communities in the state of Alabama, including fellow Black Belt cities Marion and Eufaula.

While Darsey remains optimistic about Alabama Main Street’s prospective sponsorship of the Demopolis community, she also spoke to a broader renewal in motivation among the community to cultivate positive change.

“We’re working on a lot. I mean, if for some reason we did not get in the program, which I think we will, we won’t slow down.”