FOLEY – Efforts to improve and promote downtown Foley have resulted in more than $12 million in investment in the district in the last five years.
Darrelyn Dunmore, executive director of Foley Main Street, spoke with members of the Foley City Council on Monday, Oct. 16. She said that in the five years since Foley Main Street was established, both public and private investment in improving downtown Foley has increased.
Foley Main Street works with the city and partners such as South Baldwin Regional Medical Center to increase the economic vibrancy of downtown Foley. Dunmore said the agency works with downtown merchants on ways to improve their buildings and businesses.
“The main thing I do is I’m a conduit between the city and the businesses,” she told council members.” I try to interpret to you what they want and I try to interpret to them what you all want.”
She said business owners often do not know what opportunities are provided by the city and other organizations.
“”I don’t mind sitting with them,” she said. “I don’t mind explaining facade grants to them. I don’t mind explaining how the system works, why they need to get their permits and directing them to where they need to go. She said business owners often do not know what opportunities are provided by the city and other organizations.
Private investment has been about $10.5 million, while public investment has been about $2.3 million, according to Foley Main Street’s five-year report.
Some of the public investment has been through facade grants. The grants are provided by the City Council to help pay for exterior improvements to downtown buildings, Dunmore said.
At a meeting of Main Street members, she said the city has recently funded work on two downtown buildings and more projects are planned.
She said work on one building can also lead to efforts to improve surrounding structures.
“When you can wake up a corner just by painting a building it makes all the difference in the world,” she said. “I call it the reverse broken-window syndrome. If somebody sees improvements going on, all of the sudden, you see the next person putting out flower pots saying I’m going to look good too.”
She said private investments include money spent to buy downtown property and to renovate structures. Some funding also reflects repairs to buildings following Hurricane Sally in 2020.
“We are planning on helping with many more facade grants,” Dunmore said. “It really made me feel good when the City Council at the last meeting approved a couple of facade grants, one for the chamber and one for another business. They have been so supportive of the businesses with the facade program.”
She said that since Foley Main Street began in 2018, the organization has also created support on social media and its new website.
“We started with Facebook in 2018 and to date we have 8,500 followers on Facebook, Instagram followers, same thing,” she said. “We started at zero and now we’re almost 2,000 followers on our Instagram page. Website. Again, we started from zero. We hit 84,000 pageviews on our website. What was interesting about that was last year we had 47,000. So we almost doubled the page views in one year, which means we’re gaining traction.”
Dunmore said Main Street Alabama has also recognized Foley Main Street with awards and accreditations.
“We have received 10 state awards of excellence through Main Street Alabama,” she said. “There are 38 districts in Alabama, and there’s only about 42 awards that are given out every year. “
She said the attention on social media and to the website shows that people are interested in downtown Foley
Foley has also been named a designated city by Main Street Alabama.
“There are many cities that participate in Main Street programs, but not all of them are designated,” Dunmore said. “You have to meet very stringent criteria to be a designated city we’re also accredited at the national level which is an annual accreditation.”.
“People are looking to see what’s going on downtown and seeing what’s being improved,” she said. “I like to tell people that if somebody’s interested in investing in downtown, they want to know that downtown is investing in itself.”
More information is available on the Foley Main Street website, www.foleymainstreet.com.