LDA seeks new members, fresh ideas

Friday, February 7, 2014

By Karen Hall


"We are in a sort of state of disarray," said Lewisburg Downtown Alliance President Leland Carden at the start of the group's meeting last week. "We're kind of in reorganization mode. We need to fulfill the requirements of our charter."

According to the charter, LDA must have a board of nine to 15 members, chosen from members of the association.

"We only have four board members left," said Carden. "Ken Todd, Gene Douglas Parsons, Rick Tillis, and me.

"We need members so we can elect board members, and from them get officers," he continued, adding that it is essential to get in compliance with the charter before the report to the state is due on April 1.

Membership fees are the LDA's only source of income apart from grants and donations like the $1,600 from Marshall County's ECD/Tourism committee at the end of last summer.

"The Vision Plan has some very exciting things in it," said Carden told the small group gathered in the Historic First Avenue Building. "The LDA is considered an active part of that plan. We've given our support to the city's plan to link Rock Creek Park and the square -- that's one of the things the long-range plan calls for."

Tina Lilly, president of the Marshall County Art Guild, which now has a home on the square at 123 West Commerce Street, reassured LDA members that it was possible to grow back from almost nothing.

"In August when I got involved with MCAG, we were down to four members," Lilly said. "We had to find a benefit for people to join, and we got the gallery on the square. Now we have 52 members. It's all about offering a benefit. That's how we've been successful."

She went on to say that all the group's marketing has been done over the Internet.

"We went crazy with our website," said Lilly. "That's how we attracted the people."

Carden said LDA had hoped for more support from business owners and property owners.

"They drifted away when they saw it wasn't going to benefit their business," Todd said.

"We need fresh ideas and fresh energy," said Carden, promising to do some work on recruiting.

The LDA plans to continue their free Second Saturday events on the square from May to September.

"The committee for Second Saturday needs to get fired up," said Carden. "Ken (Todd) is in charge, but he can use lots of help."

Todd's group planned to meet weekly, at 5 p.m. every Wednesday at the Art Guild.

Lilly reported MCAG had applied to the Tennessee Arts Commission for a grant, and said, "We can sponsor some things if it's art related."

Parsons offered to donate gourds to paint, and Sara Coutu said she would work on Chalk on the Walk.

Carden is working closely with City Manager Randall Dunn, and one of their ongoing projects is the preparation of a historic overlay ordinance to create a historic overlay district centered on the square. Then the city would need a historical commission to draw up guidelines for development and change.

"It would qualify the city for more historic grants," Carden said, and it paves the way toward becoming a Mainstreet community.

"We've got a lot of good things going," he concluded. "We need to draw people in and get the word out."

"Second Saturday did grow and get better as time went on," said Todd. "If discouragement gets to us, we'll lose everything we've gained."

LDA will meet again on the fourth Thursday of the month, Feb. 27.