Milledgeville honored with national award

The Telegraph
May 19, 2014

The National Main Street Center honored Milledgeville and two other cities as recipients of the 2014 Great American Main Street Awards at a ceremony Sunday night in Detroit.

Erica Stewart, a spokeswoman for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the honor is the highest award a city can earn for downtown revitalization. Also honored Sunday were Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Woodbine, Iowa.

"One of our past winners likened it to winning an Oscar," she said. "It's a very competitive application process. ... It can be a real boon to a winning community."

Carlee Schulte, director of Milledgeville Main Street, said she is excited and honored for her organization to be recognized nationally.

"As a model of revitalization of the community, I think (winning) brings community pride and regional recognition," she said.

The Main Street program, created by the National Trust, is designed to preserve and revitalize the downtown areas of American cities. It uses a four-point approach: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

"Milledgeville is just hitting on all cylinders," Stewart said. "They've just done a fantastic job with the four-point approach and applied it on every level."

Stewart said Milledgeville brought in community stakeholders and took a grassroots approach to revitalizing downtown. The city has done a good job partnering with Georgia College & State University and Georgia Military College to make downtown a lively area for students, she said.

"They've changed downtown to make it a welcoming and inspiring place to be," she said.

Schulte said the city has worked hard to bring in new investors as a means of repurposing historic properties while preserving the buildings' historic looks.

"We're working with the private sector to make downtown an exciting place to work, play and visit," she said.

Entrepreneurs in Milledgeville have been able to secure community-funded microgrants for their start-ups. Since 2004, downtown has seen 55 buildings rehabbed, a net increase of 63 businesses and $66.5 million invested into the commercial district.

In addition, there's been an increase in cultural activities downtown, including the restoration of Georgia College's Black Box Theatre and the creation of the Deep Roots Festival.

"We hope that this award will jump-start new interest (in Milledgeville), not just from investors, but with new visitors, too," Schulte said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.