By LARRY C. BOWERS
MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr confirmed the downtown business organization’s dedication to the local business community, and to the City …
By LARRY C. BOWERS
MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr confirmed the downtown business organization’s dedication to the local business community, and to the City of Cleveland’s effort to redevelop the downtown area during Thursday’s Kiwanis Club luncheon at the Elks Lodge.
Marr emphasized the local MainStreet association is affiliated with state and national organizations, the national association founded in 1976. Marr joined MainStreet in 2005 after years of experience in radio and television sales and other marketing ventures.
When MainStreet was founded, it was one of five in the state. There are now 33 MainStreet chapters across Tennessee.
“We’re a very active program, and it takes a lot of people to make it work,” said Marr. “We are focused on our local business community, and on bringing in new business.”
Marr said MainStreet is involved with a number of downtown Cleveland projects, including The Cruise-In, Downtown Dine Around, the Farmer’s Market at the Old Woolen Mill, First Friday Festival, the annual Cleveland Block Party, the downtown Christmas Tree Lighting, Christmas Parade and the Cleveland Apple Festival.
“I’m not positive, but I believe we have the longest Christmas Parade in the state,” said Marr. She noted it is usually about three miles long.
The organization’s director added MainStreet is also focused on the economic vitality of the Cleveland business community. Current focus is the planned purchased by the city of the historic Cherokee Hotel, MainStreet’s recent property enhancement grants, plans for 40 loft apartments downtown, and additional projects on the planning horizon.
In regards to the city’s plan to purchase the Cherokee Hotel, MainStreet’s directors have bought into the redevelopment. They have voted to provide a $200,000 donation to assist the city with this plan.
Finalization of the purchase will not be for two years, as the hotel’s owners must first follow through with plans for a new housing complex to take in the 78 tenants in the old hotel (now The Summit Apartments).
“For 25 years we (MainStreet) have talked about how to get the Cherokee Hotel revitalized,” Marr said. “This is a great time for the city to make plans to purchase it. MainStreet is happy to be an investor and partner in this effort.”
She added MainStreet officials feel the Cherokee Hotel will make a big difference in the redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown business community.
There is also the downtown enhancement grant program MainStreet recently implemented. The business organization awarded 10 grants totaling more than $54,000 to businesses in the downtown area.
Among recipients of the grants were The Catch Bar and Grill, Terra Running Company, Gardner’s Market, the Jones’ Properties, Cafe Roma, Mash and Hops, Stuck Southern Bistro, Capital Financial Group, and Jimmy Logan and Robert Thompson (attorneys).
The MainStreet director emphasized loft living is a growing trend across the nation, some projects are planned in the downtown area. There are also plans for streetscaping by the city through downtown, the Back Alley Gallery (with funding from the Lynnhurst Foundation), and the Open the Door to Art Program.
MainStreet continues to update its Downtown Cleveland Master Plan from 2004, planning upgrades to the Courthouse Square, Broad Street improvements, and continued development of 1st Street Square which was a public/private project. The Sons of the American Revolution provided a statue of Col. Benjamin Cleveland at the park.
The organization has also been involved with a new downtown stop sign system, other signs and posters, wayfinding, improvement to the Inman Street railroad underpass, the Inman Street Portal, and beautification of downtown with hanging flower baskets.
Among future plans for MainStreet are more updates to the master plan, Inman Street diet, new loft development, streetscaping on Church, Edwards, and Parker, parking solutions, partnering with Whirlpool in the development of their 90-acre property downtown, more walkability, and improvements in the Blythe-Oldfield community.
Marr said downtown Cleveland is in need of revitalization after 27 years of growth in association with MainStreet. She said the city has wonderful meeting space downtown, as well as great dining and great retail shopping.
She also pointed out the Old Woolen Mill is a work in progress, as are former malls, the beautiful new public library, and Lee University’s involvement downtown.
“MainStreet is very appreciative of all our sponsors and partners,” she said. “It takes all of these people to make things happen.”
In other Kiwanis business:
• Five people were elected as new directors. They include Chuck Evans, Dennis Botts and Richard Hughes to three-year terms, and Vince McLaughlin and Mike Tomlinson for two years.
• The club also presented five special awards.
Incoming Club President Mike Stoess accepted $300 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region, and a $250 check for the club’s Program.
Other awards went to Dennis Botts ($250) for the Life Education Through Sports Program, $1,500 to Kelli Kyle for The Refuge, and $4,000 to Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library Director Andy Hunt for the library’s Children’s Exploration Garden.
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