Everyone living in Porterdale is a stakeholder in the promotion of the town’s Main Street Program, says Josephine Kelly.
Kelly began her new role as Porterdale Main Street Director in mid-May, replacing Teri Haler after the latter accepted a tourist specialist position with the City of Conyers.
“By its very nature, downtown development is a collaborative process involving a large team of stakeholders,” Kelly said. She is pleased to be working with the “leadership team, citizens and business owners who have a shared goal of preserving this historic mill village, while preparing it for the 21st Century.”
“It’s the next evolution of the village,” she added.
Kelly said she will not be reinventing the wheel, but will continue working with conceptual plans created by Kristi Korngold, a Downtown Renaissance Fellow, who worked with city officials and residents to develop a plan for revitalizing the downtown business district.
The city also became part of a three-year program, the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, a partnership between the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Georgia Municipal Association and the University of Georgia College of Environment and Design offering assistance in creating plans to meet housing and neighborhood revitalization needs.
“The conceptual plans have created a lot of dialogue in the leadership team,” Kelly said, adding that part of her job will be to keep “the city’s leadership team, Main Street Board, downtown businesses and property owners working on those plans.”
One component of the plan is to increase home ownership in Porterdale, and to help communities think about their housing needs, she said. Home ownership can help engage people in the life of the community. Revitalization in neighborhoods is important to the revitalization of a downtown business district.
“There’s already an upward trend in ownership, but we’re going to look at opportunities to encourage that process,” she said. “By having more residents you have more vitality and people actively using a downtown district.”
One of the things that has impressed Kelly about the city is the community’s creativity in its approach to revitalization.
“Not only do you have a historic mill village, but it sits on the banks of the Yellow River,” she said. “There’s been such a dedicated effort to create better accessibility for people to enjoy access to the river.”
She points to the design of the signs that mark the trails through the park and to the town libraries located throughout the village as examples of that creativity.
“People can borrow and return books. It’s very informal and it promotes literacy in the community,” she said.
Kelly went on to say that the conversion of the mill into residential units and the rebuilding of the historic gym are also examples of the city’s “effort to creatively and adaptively use the resources of the community.”
“There are good things happening here,” she said.
The Main Street program was developed over 30 years ago and is based on a four-part approach to downtown development—organization, design, economic restructuring and promotion.
Everyone is a stakeholder in this process. Whether it’s financing of public projects or encouraging good historic preservation, the goal is to engage the community collaboratively.
Kelly brings to Porterdale more than a decade of experience as the director of the Main Street Covington development program, and has also consulted on other downtown development projects.
During her tenure as Main Street Director in Covington, the program received the 2011 Georgia Department of Community Affairs Award of Excellence for Downtown Development.
Kelly has served on the Covington Urban Redevelopment Authority and Redevelopment Plan, the Covington/Newton Livable Cities HWY 278 Corridor Plan, Newton Trails, Covington Community Housing Team, the Newton County Education Foundation and the Newton County Economic Development Plan.
Currently, she is the president of the Georgia Downtown Association.
“She has a tremendous amount of experience with the Main Street program, locally and statewide,” said Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman. “Teri [Haler] did a great job of setting [the Main Street program] up. Josephine will do a great job picking it up and moving us forward.”
“We hate to lose Teri, but we were delighted to see her move up,” Chapman said. “To see her picked to do something important for Rockdale County is a compliment to her and a compliment to us.”
“We’re a small, emerging town and to get someone with [Kelly’s] background is definitely a coup,” she said.