The year 2016 was a year to celebrate in downtown Gadsden. Downtown Gadsden, Inc. (DGI) sponsored events such as First Friday, Girls Night Out, Third Thursday, Musical Mondays, Snacks with Santa and the Chili Cook-Off. DGI also co-sponsored several events such as the Howl-O-Weenie Paw-ty and Downtown Christmas Open House. Crowds at these events exceeded all expectations. These events helped downtown Gadsden to continue growth and success and become the destination place of all ages to support our local small business owners.
The Fourth Annual Sunsets Sips fundraising event was the most successful ever, raising a total of $9,535. Funds raised from the 2016 Sunset Sips event were used to assist with the refurbishment of the Pitman Theater neon. Noble Signs of Anniston completed a total renovation and cleaning to include new neon on the sign, the marquee and other areas. On October 25, a ceremony was held to relight the historic sign. In addition to the Sunset Sips funds, funding was provided by Riverview Regional Medical Center, the City of Gadsden, District 28 Representative Craig Ford, District 10 Senator Phil Williams and their representatives on the Etowah Community Development Board, Daniel Sizemore and Kent Back.
The 4th Annual “Party with a Purpose at the Pitman” was an event to raise funds for renovations to the theatre. The event raised a total of $7,323. The money raised went towards the neon refurbishment, new fixtures in the lobby and standee areas and reclamation of a section of four original seats that were sandblasted and painted with new walnut armrests and recovered seat cushions that will be placed in the waiting area outside the new restrooms when completed.
Downtown Gadsden welcomed the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl back for its second year. The event was organized and sponsored by Chase Building Group. Bart Dawson worked with Kay Moore and Mary Wood to plan and organize a very successful and entertaining event in Downtown Gadsden. With the participation of 12 local restaurants and pubs, it attracted a great deal of locals to join in the crawl. Downtown Gadsden, Inc., hopes that the crowd will continue to grow in 2017 attracting participants from all over northeast Alabama.
Downtown Gadsden saw several beautification projects completed in 2016. In June, the four-faced Tupelo clock was installed at the corner of Court and Broad streets, lights were placed on trees, hanging baskets were placed on the corner light poles and new planters were added in various locations on Broad Street for seasonal flowers. DGI would like to thank Jane Miles for taking on this worthwhile project. With the help of Sandra Patterson and Donna Patterson, they raised $25,000 earmarked solely for the purpose of these projects. Thank you to everyone who contributed. Our downtown certainly is more beautiful with these new additions.
The year 2016 welcomed 13 new businesses in downtown Gadsden while nine businesses either relocated to other areas or closed. This resulted in a net gain of four new businesses in the downtown area. Occupancy continues to remain in excess of 90 percent of available properties. In addition, there were six property sales that were closed in 2016, reflecting the continued interest in the downtown area.
Downtown Gadsden Inc. Director, Kay Moore, and Manager of Marketing and Development, Mary Wood attended the Main Street Alabama Conference, aLABama Downtown Laboratory in Birmingham in August. At the conference, Downtown Gadsden, Inc. was awarded the following: Main Street Alabama Community Award: Buster Porch; Excellence in Business Development: Sign & Façade Improvement Grants; Excellence in Business Promotion: Elf on a Shelf; Excellence in Architectural Design: BLU. Chop House; and Excellence in Planning & Public Space: 5th Street Market.
Main Street Alabama focuses on bringing jobs, dollars and people back to Alabama’s historic communities. Economic development is at the heart of their efforts to revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.
DGI’s Façade and Sign grants continue to make it possible for new and existing businesses to improve the look of their buildings and to identify their businesses with signage. During 2016, grants totaling $14,263 was given to businesses as reimbursement for work performed based on a reported $34,593 that was spent by the merchants on new signage and façade improvements.
A working partnership with the City of Gadsden, Greater Gadsden Area Tourism, the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, the Gadsden Museum of Art, Walnut Gallery and Main Street Alabama, along with others, will allow DGI to continue to strengthen downtown businesses and help downtown Gadsden boost tourism in Northeast Alabama in 2017.