ATHENS, Ala. – Athens Main Street Executive Director Tere Richardson announced today [Aug. 27] the non-profit organization, which promotes historic downtown Athens, received five awards of excellence at the sixth annual awards banquet [on Aug. 22] during the aLABama Downtown Laboratory conference hosted by Main Street Alabama.

During the Awards of Excellence program, Main Street Alabama’s President and State Coordinator, Mary Helmer, honored projects and individuals that made tremendous impacts in Athens in the previous year.

Excellence in Planning and Public Space – The Excellence in Planning and Public Space award recognizes outstanding planning projects and quality, completed design improvement projects such as streetscape, public spaces, etc.

Streetscape Improvements to the Square – The project included a number of improvements to the Square of Downtown Athens. Pedestrian safety and handicap accessibility were greatly improved through the addition of bulb-outs reducing the amount of time required to walk across traffic, ADA compliance sidewalk ramps and bumps, as well as new historically appropriate lamp posts that provide energy-efficient lighting for pedestrians. Additionally, the project included electrical boxes on all 4 corners of the Courthouse to provide power to festivals and events, green space was added to the sidewalks thru planting grass and shade trees.

Pictured: L-R Jim Lannom, Athens Utilities, James Rich, Athens Public Works, Trisha Black, Main Street Alabama, Tere Richardson Athens Main Street, Ronnie Marks, Athens Mayor, Steve Carter Athens Gas Department.

Excellence in Placemaking – The Excellence in Placemaking award recognizes outstanding local efforts within the district with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.

Athens City Schools Pop-Up Park – Forgotten places can oftentimes be in plain sight. In Downtown Athens, next to our core local businesses, sat a small alleyway. Over the years it had collected garbage cans, an unsightly chain-link gate, and weeds. An Athens City Schools program, housed in a historic building in our downtown, took the alley on as a part of their Project Based Learning curriculum during the Fall. Students designed a Fall themed backdrop to address the negatives of the space and highlight the positives. They installed string lights to make the space welcoming at night, sourced chairs to invite people to linger.

Pictured: Pop up Park on North Jefferson St.

Excellence in Building Design – The Excellence in Building Design award recognizes outstanding completed building design projects, including exterior and/or interior renovation projects or infill construction projects.

Restoration of 109 South Marion Street – Complete interior and exterior renovation of 109 South Marion Street. The project was begun in 2017 and conducted over 2 years. The project also included upstairs renovation and enhancement of the rear entrance in an effort to encourage other business and building owners to follow suit. The rear entrance opens onto a highly visible alley approaching the Square. Wayne Kuykendall is the building owner. He planned, financed, and oversaw construction, performing much of it himself. The project culminated with the expansion of Willow Cottage Antiques to the upstairs and rear of the building June 2018.

Pictured: 109 South Marion Street

Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships – The Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships recognizes creative joint ventures between the local Main Street organization and another local, community entity or entities (public or private).

Limestone County Commission – The Limestone County Commission is the largest land owner in Downtown Athens, with the County Courthouse, County Commission Office, Farmers Market and several other properties. They support Downtown through many partnerships. They are not only supportive of public use of their properties but also work with organizations to provide improvements that enhance the experiences of Downtown.

Pictured: Limestone County Courthouse Mardi Gras celebration.

Community Award: Main Street Hero – The Main Street Hero award recognizes one community leader, public figure or an organization who has made an outstanding contribution to your local Main Street organization program in the last year.

Blake Williams – Blake Williams is a student at Mississippi State University where he is studying Public Relations. But truthfully, Blake could teach his own courses in how to effectively use print, broadcast and social media. Blake has been a volunteer with Athens Main Street as our Social Media guru for over 3 years. He is able to provide significant assistance to us. Blake constantly challenges us to be thinking and planning for the next promotion activity.

Pictured: L-R Ronnie Marks, Athens Mayor, Tere Richardson Executive Director, Athens Main Street, Blake Williams, Main Street Hero, Chris Hamilton, Promotions Chair, Athens Main Street.

QUOTES:

Athens Main Street Executive Director Tere Richardson – “The success of downtowns hinges on cooperation and planning between individuals, merchants, developers, employers and our public institutions. In Athens, we have just such a cooperative group working toward a common goal of sustaining a strong, beautiful downtown. It is with great pride that we celebrate these significant successes over the past year.”

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks – “It means so much to city employees when others recognize the efforts they make to enhance Athens,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “Those from Public Works and Athens Utilities who worked on this project appreciate Main Street Alabama for commending them on their efforts.”

Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly – “The Limestone County Commission is honored to have received the Excellence in Public/Private Partnership Award from Main Street Alabama. The courthouse square is the heart of our County and any chance we get to enhance it, is a great day for us.”

Main Street Alabama President and State Coordinator Mary Helmer – “It’s an honor to recognize these outstanding community projects, leaders and volunteers. Projects recognized with an Award of Excellence are truly charting new territory in downtown revitalization in Alabama. The effort and leadership it takes to move these projects from concept through completion is tremendous and we are thrilled to acknowledge such achievements.”