Volunteers needed to make Saturday a success

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By Leland Carden

President, Lewisburg Downtown Alliance

The next Lewisburg Downtown Alliance Second Saturday Event is planned for this Saturday, July 12, in beautiful downtown Lewisburg. The LDA is seeking local and area arts and crafts people, service organizations, churches, civic clubs, and food vendors, local gardeners, etc. to participate in these events. The vendor space is free (email Ann Jarrett at annocat@earthlink.net to reserve space). In addition to the vendors' booths, inflatables, games, and activities for children, Hula Hoop Contests and a Corn Hole Tournament will be offered.

We need volunteers to assist with the many logistical activities involved in setting up, managing, and operating an activity of this magnitude. Individuals willing to work with us can contact us on the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance's Facebook page.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Live music will be offered on the Courthouse stage beginning at 1 p.m. The featured artists are:

* singer-songwriter Taylor Hoch and her band, from Fayetteville, from 1 until 2:30 p.m.;

* The Journey Home Gospel Duo, featuring Debbie Davis and David Fuller, from Hohenwald, from 3 until 4 p.m.;

* folk and country guitarist Kameron Jones, from Fayetteville, from 5 until 6:30 p.m.

The Lewisburg Downtown Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, born out of the concerns of a number of local citizens about the well-being and future of downtown Lewisburg and the surrounding area. The initial meeting was convened at the Lewisburg City Hall in 2008, to discuss the strengths, challenges, and development of plans for the revitalization of the heart of the City. Since then, the LDA has been actively involved in encouraging, educating, and offering opportunities for proprietors, property owners, entrepreneurs, and interested local citizens to get involved in the development, preservation, and promotion of our Historic Downtown. The mission and vision of the LDA is: "Planning for the future, while preserving the past," thus enabling downtown Lewisburg to become a thriving and appealing destination point for community activities, commerce and tourism ... and to establish a strong sense of community pride.

With support from the City of Lewisburg and the Marshall County Economic Development/Tourism Committee, the LDA was enabled for two summers to sponsor the O'More School of Design's "Studio on the Square," offering free planning and design work to downtown property and business owners.

The Second Saturday events were envisioned as a way to attract people to the downtown area; offer opportunities for existing businesses to attract new customers; and to inform locals and people from the surrounding area about our town. The Marshall County Economic Development/Tourism Committee, in addition to funding the O'More School's programs on the Square, has provided funding support for Second Saturday activities.

Through the LDA, the City of Lewisburg was chosen in 2012 as a "Tennessee Downtowns Community" by the State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. This program provided a financial grant to be used in making improvements to downtown properties. The O'More School students had suggested a unique "ghost building" design for the vacant lot on West Commerce Street owned by the Phillips family. In a cooperative effort with the Phillips family, the LDA opted to invest the majority of their TN Downtowns grant in developing plans and basic preparation for the Public Square Park. Further evidence of the O'More School's influence on downtown redevelopment can be seen in redevelopment of the formerly vacant "Chinese restaurant building" by Rick Tillis and the Perryman brothers, now housing Tillis Jewelers" and "John Price Music. These developments encouraged other property owners to make facade improvements, and further beautify the downtown area.

Over the past several years, investors have purchased a number of properties in downtown Lewisburg that are in various stages of redevelopment, or have been occupied by new businesses. Restoration of the downtown area as a viable commercial district is a challenging effort, as entrepreneurs strive to find the secret to establishing and sustaining businesses on the square, particularly food-related businesses. We are continuing to seek out and encourage businesses and investors for the downtown area.

The Lewisburg Downtown Alliance, Inc. has no source of funding except membership fees and donations from individuals and businesses, and grants. We are grateful for their support. We are a totally volunteer organization, and those who have remained involved since the inception have often funded needs and activities out of their own pockets.

The City of Lewisburg has been supportive in enabling us to block off the square for events, providing meeting space, sponsoring our grant-seeking efforts, providing bookkeeping for our grant; and through the office of the City Manager. The LDA also appreciates the support of the County Office of Economic Development (Mike Wiles); the City's Community Development Board; and the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce; and the opportunity to participate in the recent Long-Range Planning events. Interested citizens are invited to attend our 4thThursday meetings at the Historic 1st Avenue Building, get involved, and to help revitalize Historic Downtown Lewisburg.