While Covington and Newton County continue to refine the roles and responsibilities of Main Street Covington, the program has already taken a significant step forward.
Main Street received the 2011 Georgia Downtown Association's Annual Award of Excellence in Downtown Development, the highest honor available for downtown groups. The award, which is accompanied by a $1,000 check, is given to the city that has showed the greatest improvement in downtown redevelopment during the past few years.
Main Street Director Josephine Kelly thanked her board, the city of Covington and the county for their efforts to improve the downtown. The association won the award because of several improvements:
- new buildings totaling $27 million worth of investment, with an additional $7 million planned in 2011 SPLOST projects
- filling vacancies with quality buildings, such as Lula Building, Church Street lofts and various retail
- continuation of 25 years of television and film production
- creation of the Historic Preservation Commission, which has worked to protected and promoted historic integrity
- a commitment to planning, including the Downtown Master Plan, Livable Cities Initiative/U.S. Highway 278 Corridor Plan, the Urban Redevelopment Plan
- improvements to housing through the Covington Housing Team and Covington Redevelopment Authority, including the Harristown Park affordable senior living complex and the revitalization of the Walker's Bend neighborhood
- the presence of nearly 50 partnering agencies that create a vibrant and diverse events calendar, including one of only four literacy festivals in Georgia, a Christmas parade with more than 140 entries, a robust concert series, participation in 2010 National 4-H week, and a Back 2 School Block Party where 1,000 students are given school supplies
- a comprehensive and strategic marketing program that uses television, catalogs, print media, e-marketing, the internet and social media
- a high occupancy rate in the downtown district
Kelly said the city was helped by its good showing during this year's Heart and Soul Bus Tour, where leaders from across Georgia tour successful downtowns.
"Also the Arnold Fund, past City Manager Frank Turner Sr. and businessman and property owner Rob Fowler's support of the downtown district has formed an important and sustaining foundation from which to work from," Kelly said in an email. "We have had some great team players and leadership in the Main Street program over the past 25years that have created this success. The program is especially appreciative of City Manager Steve Horton's support of the district and the program and the many city departments that work in concert with the program. We are also privileged to enjoy long standing support from the county commission which often not the case with some downtown programs."
Main Street will not be resting on its laurels; Kelly said the Main Street Board of Directors has set several goals for the next year.
At its fall retreat, the board decided to have a candidates forum, add a call box to the downtown, prepare the district for future growth and enhancing the culture, arts and entertainment of the district.
Kelly said Main Street also wanted to increase opportunities for volunteers to become more involved in several events, including the 2011 Coming Together - Celebrating Newton County Day, Independence in the Park and the Newton County Literacy Festival.
The association also has openings on the design and economic development committees and always needs assistance on special projects in the office.
To volunteer or learn more about Main Street's efforts visit downtowncovington.org or contact Director Josephine Kelly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (770) 385-2077 or in person at, 2104 Washington St. in Covington.