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Jonesborough seeks Main Street status

Madison Mathews • Jan 14, 2012 at 9:57 PM

Jonesborough could be one of the newest communities to join the growing Tennessee Main Street Program, making it one of several located in East Tennessee.

At the January meeting of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the board approved a resolution to establish a Main Street Jonesborough organization — an entity dedicated to directing the program in the town — in order to move forward with the application process.

The Main Street Program is an organization originally established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the early 1980s. The national organization has seen significant growth since it began.

The Tennessee Main Street Program is a program of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and is a coordinating partner of the National Trust.

The Main Street Program works with its communities to provide technical assistance, training and guidance to improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of traditional commercial districts.

Currently, there are 24 Main Street communities in the state, including ones in Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol and Greeneville.

While the Main Street Program has been something town officials have often discussed in the past, there have been a number of issues that have always kept the town from joining the program. Town Administrator Bob Browning, who is working on the town’s application, said now seems like the opportune time for Jonesborough to join the program.

“We feel that this is a good time for us, especially since we’re going to events downtown and we can move a staff person who overlays some of the Main Street activities into what we already do. We feel like this is a good time for us to try to join this group of communities,” he said.

Browning has prepared a nonprofit charter to establish the Main Street Jonesborough organization so the organization can move ahead in obtaining its required town partnerships and representatives to serve on the board of directors.

One of the things that has always kept Jonesborough from joining Main Street in the past is the requirement of a part-time staff member totaling 25 hours a week. The organization needs a program director to coordinate activities in the downtown area that increases visitors and customer base for downtown businesses.

Browning said part of the proposal is to utilize the town event coordinator to serve as the Main Street director since those duties are so closely tied to one another.

Melinda Copp currently serves as the event coordinator in Jonesborough.

When the Main Street Program began in the 1980s, Jonesborough’s preservation and revitalization movement had already seen many years of growth. This was another aspect that has kept the town from joining the program.

“One of the reasons we haven’t been involved with Main Street in the past is that in looking at where we were in terms of preservation and things like that, we already had a mechanism set up to accomplish a lot of the same goals and so in order for us to turn around and try to find a staff person, there wasn’t a natural transition for us into the Main Street Program,” Browning said.

Before submitting the application, which Browning hopes to do by the beginning of February, the Main Street Jonesborough organization must be established. This means the by-laws have to be approved by the organization’s board of directors and they must have their partner organizations finalized for the application process.

Browning has already been in contact with Tennessee Main Street Program director Kimberly Nyberg, who said she has already received Jonesborough’s letter of intent to apply.

Nyberg said Jonesborough would be a welcome addition to the list of communities in the state.

“Jonesborough has a grand reputation of caring for its historic downtown and I definitely think the Main Street Program would certainly benefit from their knowledge and I would love the fact that our network would welcome them into what we do,” she said.

Once the application is submitted, Nyberg said she expects it can be reviewed and Jonesborough could potentially be accepted into the program by the end of 2012.

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