An iconic image of America that invokes an old-timey, picturesque hub of small-towns of long ago, but many American main streets are making a comeback thanks to public and private partnerships with the goal of historic preservation and rejuvenation for community main streets.
Florida Main Street, a program of the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources was established 30 years ago to designate Florida communities that meet certain criteria.
Fernandina Beach was awarded this designation in August. The status is reached through an application process submitted by the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the City of Fernandina Beach and the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau with support and financial contributions from members of the community.
The designation will mean economic growth and a draw to downtown for locals and tourists alike, says Regina Duncan, president of the AIFBY Chamber.
“We estimated that about 40 percent of our tax base is downtown both in the designated area but also the surrounding area of our designation, so we understand that for the promotion and working on design elements which comes with street scapes and banners and aestically, we know that’s going to make better sense of place for botht he trousers and the locals.”
A Fernandina Beach Main Street board of directors was established and after recievng the designation, they immediately launched a nationwide search for a main street manager and are currently moving through the interviewing process with a number of qualified candidates.
On the promotional and design aspect, Duncan said the board will be working on a brand, street scape embellishment, window displays, building improvements, signage and banners, and lighting. The board, city, chamber and Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau will be working together to make a better sense of place for tourists and locals alike and promoting the main street to the locals to give them a reason to come downtown year round, according to Duncan.
The application process gave the chamber a detailed inventory of available downtown business space, something that will help with area and economic growth.
“We now have a really good detailed inventory of what’s available downtown so that we as the chamber of commerce, we get those inquires everyday on where is there available retail space, restaurant space throughout the island and Yulee but also downtown, we have good inventory now based on that and can work on helping with the diversity of the different offerings downtown,” Duncan said.
Since the Florida Main Street program was established in 1985, $2.5 billion dollars of private and public money has been invested in Florida Main Street Communities to date. Reinvestment statistics are further broken down into net gain employment (22,487) and net gain in business (6,442) since 1985 with over 750,000 documented volunteer hours.
For more information about Fernandina Beach Main Street, visit www.fernandinabeachmainstreet.com.