May 8, 2010 10:18:00 PM
A sthousands of Columbus residents and visitors from around the region flocked to downtown this weekend, enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of the Market Street Festival, few probably realized the gargantuan effort that goes into staging the festival each year.
At the center of the effort is Amber Murphree Brislin, director of Main Street Columbus, and her team of staff, volunteers and contractors. While the organization backs other events throughout the year, the massive Market Street Festival, in its 15th incarnation, is certainly the largest and best attended (and the biggest fund-raiser for Main Street Columbus). Brislin estimated nearly 30,000 wandered through the streets at last year''s event and surely that many availed themselves of this year''s perfect weather to do likewise Saturday.
The festival is Columbus'' largest one-time opportunity to show off its downtown -- unique in Mississippi, with so much of its antebellum architecture intact, and a majority of its commercial and residential spaces occupied, even in the throes of a down economy.
This week, we learned what we always suspected -- we''re unique not just in the state, but the nation. Main Street Columbus was one of five downtown organizations nationwide to win a Great American Main Street Award, an honor bestowed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Main Street Columbus was honored for its efforts to spur revitalization by "working with the city to create a regulatory environment that supported a mixed-use downtown with popular upper-floor apartments."
"With a harmonious combination of retail, dining, business services, and housing in a downtown that renovated nearly every building, Columbus continues to be revitalized by revitalization projects," according to the National Trust.
While the award was bestowed upon an organization, others deserve to share some credit. The developers and building owners who invest their time and treasure on renovations to make downtown a great place to live and work; the business owners who choose to locate downtown; and those who rent our downtown apartments and invest in homes nearby -- all contribute to the livable downtown district that is thriving today.
More great things are in store for downtown. The park and soccer complex, tentatively called Tan Yard Park, that''s planned for the Burns Bottom area, is expected to be ready for the Fall 2011 youth soccer season. And, funds have been secured for the renovation of the old Highway 82 pedestrian bridge. These improvements, and others, will make downtown an even more desirable destination for visitors and residents alike.
We applaud Main Street Columbus for staying at the center of it all, drawing attention to downtown and helping make it a strong center of living, recreation and commerce for our city. We thank Brislin and her staff for another successful Market Street Festival, and for their efforts throughout the year. Main Street''s national award is well-earned and well-deserved.