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Posted: February 13, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Get on the Main Street

On Thursday, this community has the opportunity to be part of local training hosted by the Department of Community Affairs’s Office of Downtown Development. The department staff will introduce downtown stakeholders to the Main Street Four-Point Approach to downtown revitalization. It is an opportunity to learn how the concepts of design, economic restructuring, organization and promotion mesh to form the Main Street program.

It will give stakeholders a foundation in downtown development theory and practices gleaned from the most successful Main Street/Better Hometown cities and department’s nearly 30 years of experience in downtown revitalization.

Everyone is invited to attend this meeting — elected officials, government staff, the Chamber of Commerce and its members, the Covington/Newton Tourism Board, downtown business owners and staff, non-profits, media and most importantly the citizens of Newton County, young and old.

Why such a large invitation list?

First, everyone has a vested interest in a community’s downtown revitalization effort. Second, to be successful it takes a diverse constituency of stakeholders to create a sustainable program of downtown development. At last count Main Street Covington had more than 50 partners and the municipalities of Porterdale, Oxford, Newborn and Mansfield have just as strong and enduring partnerships.

Third, by having a shared knowledge of how to best approach and utilize the tools for downtown development, our community’s downtown revitalization efforts are afforded a higher chance of success.

A downtown district plays many roles. In the case of the city of Covington it is the county seat.

The construction of the Newton County Historic Courthouse was the first structure that began to define the district. By virtue of the wisdom and commitment of subsequent county commissions, the county has continued to define the district through the decisions to locate Newton County’s Judicial Center and administration offices in the district, and the restoration and adaptive re-use of Newton County’s Historic Courthouse. Downtown remains an economically viable district, offering business services, retail and dining. Through the preservation of downtown Covington’s authentic and historic structures it has become a backdrop for television and film production.

It is also a common ground for the community; it is where we pay tribute to lives lost in war and through acts of terrorism; it is where we celebrate with events such as Back to School, the safe return of U.S. troops and breast cancer survivors at the annual Portraits of Hope. It is a place to gather for music and learning. At times it has been a venue for groups to protest and promote change. This year for Black History month there will be an event that pays tribute to those who promoted and worked so hard for change.

Main Street Covington has been in existence for close to 24 years. In those years the program of work has evolved; responding to growth, the economy and changing needs of the community.

The municipalities of Oxford, Porterdale, Newborn and Mansfield share this experience. Downtown development is never static; it has to be dynamic and to be sustainable it must be preparing for the future needs of the citizens.

This is born testimony in the 2050 Plan for Newton County — Building a Sustainable Community, adopted in March 2010 by Newton’s local governments. New town centers, the creation of communities and the preservation of small town environments are a key strategy of the plan. In a special project of The Center for Community Preservation and Planning — Next Generation Input, the responses from an online survey suggest that downtowns can create an important nexus of activity that would give Newton County "next generation" appeal.

It was apparent at the Seventh Annual Newton County Leadership Collaborative, which was held on Feb. 5, that downtown development is being widely used as one of the many strategies to build better communities and a better Newton County.

In the Community Conversation session of the meeting, Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry, Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby and Covington Mayor Kim Carter spoke on their municipalities downtown revitalization efforts.

The presentations detailed what could be done by municiplaities to support downtown revitalization through the Main Street approaches of organization and design.

It is in the other Main Street approaches of economic development and promotion that the support of the downtown and community stakeholders is so vital.

It is important that we are a community that is literate about the tools and opportunities for downtown development. This is the first step in preparing the future revitalization of Newton County’s downtown districts.

Please attend this training and learn how we all can be part of this effort.


Main Street 101

5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Light dinner






Josephine Kelly is director of Main Street Covington.

Main Street Covington (770) 385-2077 or e-mail


provided by the Main Street Covington Food and Dining Group

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