Photo: Pictured above, Gadsden locals and visitors explore shops, restaurants and vendors as the sun sets on downtown Gadsden’s First Friday of the month.
As a new decade begins, Downtown Gadsden, Inc. wants to take time to look back at 2019 and review all the successes downtown Gadsden achieved in 2019.
New businesses, along with renovations of various properties, created excitement in the downtown area. During 2019, there were seven property sales totaling almost $3,000,000. These sales, along with another $3,000,000 in renovations, have seen remarkable improvements in the historic area. In the 300 block of Broad Street, the first phase of Life Insurance Company of Alabama’s major renovation was completed and phase two began mid-2019. Seven loft apartments at 612 Broad Street were finished and fully rented. Downtown Lofts, LLC in the 400 block of Broad Street is moving forward. At the end of 2018, there were 18 loft apartments. Now, downtown Gadsden has 25. Downtown Gadsden expects the number of lofts to expand to 40 by the summer of 2020. Loft living is an important factor in the growth of the downtown area, and DGI is excited to see the progress.
Lighting along the rooftops of Broad Street buildings on was installed in July. The lights were purchased from funds raised at Sunset Sips along with grants from Districts 28, 29 and 30 Community Development funds. The City of Gadsden provided the installation. The lights provide a beautiful skyline when driving or walking downtown at night.
Downtown Gadsden’s best-known event, First Friday, continues to bring thousands of people from this area and surrounding states to shop at our stores and eat in our restaurants while enjoying live music and classic cars. The event showcases downtown and brings many people back to visit, shop and eat when things are less hectic. It is exciting to have so many people from out of town coming back to enjoy the area.
Another favorite, Musical Monday, celebrated a very successful year as “DJ” Buster Porch and “Chef” Curlie DeRamus provided wonderful entertainment and delicious food every Monday from June through September. Thanks to sponsors, thousands of free meals were given to the public. Musical Monday continues to grow every year and provides cool jazz music and delicious wings, hot dogs and homemade pound cake at no cost to those who attend. It provides a great way to get out and enjoy Gadsden’s beautiful downtown during the summer.
Other special events brought many people downtown throughout the year like the Chili Cook Off, Third Thursdays and Sunset Sips. In 2019, DGI sponsored various holiday-themed pub crawls. In addition to the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, we added May the Fourth Be With You, the Halloween Pub Crawl and The 12 Bars of Christmas Crawl.
DGI also partnered with other local non-profits throughout the year. During March, First Friday focused on local non-profit organizations with “Downtown Gadsden Gives Back.” During spring break, DGI partnered with Gadsden and Etowah EMA and hosted the Spring Preparedness event to educate students from local schools about being prepared during severe weather events.
2019 welcomed nine new businesses in downtown Gadsden while seven businesses either relocated to other areas or closed. This resulted in a net gain of two new businesses in the downtown area. Occupancy currently remains above 90 percent of available properties.
In August, DGI Director Kay Moore and Marketing Manager Drew Southers attended the Main Street Alabama Conference in Decatur. Gadsden came home with six awards, including “Main Street Hero,” awarded to Curlie DeRamus; “Excellence in Adaptive Reuse,” awarded to the Venue at Coosa Landing; “Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation,” awarded to Life Insurance Company of Alabama; “Excellence in Economic Impact,” awarded to Phillip Williams; “Excellence in Design,” awarded to Spencer and Rosalind Gray, Roseland Developmental LLC; and “Excellence in Public and Private Partnership” for the rooftop lighting.
The success of downtown Gadsden should be credited to its merchants and restaurants, who work together to make downtown the place to visit, shop, eat and drink. DGI also depends heavily on its financial sponsors and welcome support from individuals. DGI’s 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 which strengthens the entire community.
Downtown Gadsden Inc., invites everyone to be a part of the success by shopping with local merchants, eating in locally owned restaurants and supporting local museums, hospitals, professional services and all other locally owned business. For more information, visit www.downtowngadsden.com or find DGI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Submitted by Drew Southers, DGI Marketing Manager