The revitalization of downtown Demopolis came one step closer to fruition on Wednesday, June 1 as it was announced that Demopolis had been accepted into the Main Street Alabama project. Rhae Darsey, who has spearheaded the project from the beginning, said the program will officially begin on June 28.
Darsey said she’d always thought Demopolis was a “shoo in” for the program, and is excited that the community’s hard work has paid off.
“I am absolutely thrilled. I knew we could do it. I’ve always thought Demopolis is the cutest town and our history is so cool or our historic buildings are so cool. We’ve got the river that’s gorgeous, and we’ve got great community,” said Darsey. “We’ve got great dedication to the town, so I thought we had a solid chance. I’m glad that it turned out like it did.”
Demopolis was chosen by MSA after a long process of applications and presentations to present its case to the MSA board. Darsey said the board was looking for towns with a rich history and historic buildings that needed to be preserved, and strong community support.
“They wanted us to show them that we had the community support right now and that it was sustainable. We had a lot of community support in the form of letters of support, donations, we had people who made videos for us, and we involved kids to show sustainability,” said Darsey.
Students from the middle school and high school participated by providing interviews about their experience with downtown Demopolis.
“We had several middle school students talk about their experience with downtown Demopolis and how it really wasn’t a factor in their day to day lives. They’d always heard their parents and grandparents talk about how downtown used to be a thriving business district and how they spent so much time downtown,” said Darsey. “Our students talked about how different their experiences were with the downtown area and how they wanted to experience downtown the way their parents and grandparents had.”
Now that Demopolis has officially been accepted into the program, Darsey said there will be a “coordinated and concentrated effort to bring life back to downtown.”
“Right now we’ve got several roadblocks that are keeping people from doing what they want downtown. The buildings are in bad shape where the roofs are leaking and water in the buildings means the entire structure is at risk,” said Darsey. “One of the first projects we want to do is make sure all the storefronts of the buildings that are in use and not in use look nice and neat.”
Darsey said MSA has design guides they like to follow when it comes to revitalizing areas, including planting flowers and placing entry signs to encourage people to visit the area.
When the program begins on June 28, Darsey said the MSA will visit Demopolis to help with training and organizing a board of directors. Darsey said they have already decided that they are going to set up the organizational structure of the 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(6) designations.
As for how the community can help now that Demopolis has been secured a spot in the program, Darsey said they need volunteer work to make everything happen the way it needs to happen.
“One of the very first events we’re going to be hosting is the farmer’s market that will be moved to the square. We need help supervising farmers markets every Saturday. We’ll need people to help make decisions for the board. Basically we need a lot of volunteers, donations, or whatever people can give,” said Darsey.
Darsey said the people of Demopolis should be proud of their community and the accomplishment of being chosen from a highly selective process.
“I don’t know exactly how many people applied, but there were a lot of applicants and we were one of four chosen. It could have easily gone the wrong way. But we came out great because of the work that our committee has done and the support of the community,” said Darsey. “They should also be proud of the groundwork that people before us laid out. They need to know to be proud and to get excited because we’re going to have some fun exciting things coming to downtown Demopolis.”