Looking forward to downtown revitalization

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2003

In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of work going on around Andalusia. And it's all for the better.

The downtown area is where a lot of this work is taking place, and I couldn't be happier.

Sure, I love to see new construction projects on the bypasses and highways, but what I really love to see is the revitalization effort that is being made downtown - in the heart of my hometown.

Like so many others, I was saddened at the closing of the two elementary schools. I myself attended Church Street and remember fondly climbing those stairs to the top and I actually remember "falling up" the stairs a couple of times. I remember going to East Three Notch and performing a Christmas musical for the students when I was in middle school. Yes, I had fond memories of the buildings, but I also knew they had served their purpose and that sometimes, things had to give way for newer, shinier buildings.

When the city obtained the two historic buildings and decided to give them a facelift, I was elated. East Three Notch - the oldest of the school buildings in Andalusia - will make an exceptional City Hall.

And Church Street, the place where so many played as little children - well it's now a place so many more can play as adults as the new Adult Activity Center.

But beyond that, there is so much more that is going on downtown.

It all began years ago with the Court Square project, and the vision so many Andalusians had. A beautiful public square to gather. From there, the downtown area just continued to sprout with beauty.

Businesses started sprucing up their storefronts. Sidewalks were bricked instead of paved. New coats of paint, and finally, a couple of old buildings started receiving much needed renovations.

Driving down East Three Notch Street, I see old buildings with new businesses in them. Businesses other than law offices, accountants and the like. Instead, I see a sit-down restaurant, a new real estate office, retail furniture and antique stores, the venerable Dairy Queen and Sonic, a family drug store and more. It's nice to see the downtown start to come back to life. Dairy Queen's been in place for years. It's the place so many of us, myself included, had our first job (I think it's a requirement). The Sonic was reopened after years thanks to an enterprising newcomer with a vision for family and good food.

But, there's more to be done.

The new martial arts center is a prime example. So is the soon-to-be relocated Pirate Graphics in the quasi-art deco building. These businesses are taking a chance on downtown. Others should.

I remember as child, downtown was the place to go at Christmas time.

Anyone in their mid- to late-20s and older can remember going into Ron Collum's Western Auto and picking out their "big" Christmas present. It was mandatory.

Now, our options are limited downtown, but thanks to those folks taking the chance, they're becoming broader.

While so many cities and towns are heading for the "burbs," small towns like Andalusia should be looking to the heart of the city. Imagine a beautiful pedestrian friendly shopping plaza in the downtown area. The old bank building redone with a restaurant. The vacant shops lining East Three Notch and South Cotton (the bottom) full again with the hustle and bustle of small, family retail establishments. Another restaurant in the old L&N Depot. The possibilities are endless.

This weekend, we have so many visitors to our wonderful city for the World Championship Domino Tournament. They can see all the progress we're making on roads and the like, but how many of them will come downtown? Imagine next year, those same visitors returning, only this time, they have another stop to make instead of the Kiwanis Building. They'll have to stop downtown and do a little shopping and eating.

The process has begun, we all need to take the initiative to help it along. And, let's not forget the positive image it will give our city when recruiting new business and industry - a beautiful, viable downtown where the people are friendly and the service and sales are second-to-none.