The Spirit of Athens (SOA) began in 2006 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization and future growth of downtown Athens. It was modeled after the Main Street approach, given Alabama did not have, at the time, an active Main Street State program to join. For the next, several years SOA worked to promote and revitalize downtown Athens. In 2010, Alabama reinstated the State Main Street program and grandfathered SOA into the Main Street Alabama program in 2013 as Spirit of Athens Alabama Inc dba Athens Main Street (AMS).
Throughout the past 13 years, AMS has made significant contributions to downtown Athens, including the establishment of a Certified Farmers Market that operates each Saturday, June through August. AMS created the Athens Art League and the established High Cotton Arts, a downtown artist incubator, as well as, incorporating a number of promotional events that have become highly anticipated and attended year after year bringing new visitors to downtown. AMS performed a key role in the recently completed Streetscape project that improved walkability, provided more green space with grass and shade trees, improved lighting with the installation of historic lamp posts, and improvements to sidewalks to become ADA compliant.
Mission & Organization:
AMS is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to the renovation, revitalization, and future growth of the City of Athens downtown area. AMS fulfills its purpose through public/private partnerships with the City of Athens, Limestone County Commission, and many private organizations, businesses, and individuals. AMS works closely with the City of Athens on attracting businesses to downtown. AMS serves as the conduit of communication between the City of Athens and the downtown merchants on design and ordinance issues. AMS and the Limestone County Commission work together to present the farmer’s market, as the pavilion is the property of the Commission. Additionally, the Commission allows AMS to utilize the Courthouse grounds for festivals and outdoor dining.
AMS also works closely through private partnerships with the Athens Arts League, Athens Rotary, Athens Limestone Beautification Board, Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce, Athens Limestone Tourism, and many others. Athens Arts League was founded by AMS and both organizations continue to work closely together. Athens Rotary Club is a huge supporter of AMS’s activities and provides funding to a number of projects. The Limestone Beautification Board and AMS recently worked to together with Athens Rotary Club to replace Christmas decorations throughout downtown. Athens Limestone Tourism and AMS work together to present summer music and food festivals. AMS and the Athens Limestone Chamber of Commerce present Christmas Open House downtown each holiday season. AMS relies greatly on volunteer help and works with a number of youth organizations throughout the community, Clements High School Key Club, Tanner High School Key Club, Mayor’s Youth Commission, First National Bank Youth Board, Together Renewing and Improving Limestone, and many others.
AMS uses the 4-Point Main Street Approach of Design, Economic Vitality, Promotion, and Organization. By carefully integrating these 4-Points into a practical downtown management strategy, AMS produces positive changes in the community’s economic base. Design enhances the attractiveness of the business district through help with historic building rehabilitation through AMS’ Façade and Signage grants, assisting with improving walkability throughout Downtown with streetscape improvements, and alley revitalization through public art and gathering space creations. Economic Vitality involves recruiting new businesses, creatively converting unused spaces, sharpening the competitiveness of the merchants, and attracting investors. Promotion creates excitement downtown with street festivals, retail events, and social media promotion. It involves marketing an enticing image to shoppers, investors, and visitors. Organization involves building a framework of partners represented by business owners, property owners, bankers, citizens, public officials, etc., all working together to renew downtown.
The City of Athens and the Limestone County Commission both provide yearly funding for AMS totaling approximately one-half of AMS income. We are truly appreciative of this support. The other half of AMS income is provided through the generous donations of our local Stakeholders, Business Investors, and Individual Investors. We also greatly appreciate the support of our private investors, particularly our stakeholders who include the CDPA, Martin & Cobey, Hand Arendall, Morell Engineering, Cast Products, First National Bank, Ming Commercial Real Estate Group, Optimal Geo, Pepper Johnstone & Co, and Egypt Bluff Properties.
AMS is governed by a dynamic and diverse Board of Directors, carefully selected from multiple business categories, retail, downtown residency, and for passion for the mission. Our board members are Shane Black, President, Tommy Coblentz, Vice President, Mason Matthews, Treasurer, Amy Higginbotham, Secretary, Jimmy Woodroof, Doug Gates, William Ming, Chris Hamilton, Letisha Brinkley, Brad Mallette. Advisors are Michelle Williamson and Teresa Todd.