Now that the City of Tallassee has earned the green light on the downtown TAP grant project, it is considering partnering with Downtown Strategies, which is a division of Retail Strategies, to create a new 5-year strategic plan.
The president of Downtown Strategies, Jenn Gregory, and Elliott Cook, director of real estate for Retail Strategies attended Tuesday's work session at city hall with hopes of working with the city to revitalize downtown Tallassee.
"We have been a long, strong, partner with Tallassee for a number of years for retail recruitment services," Gregory said.
Downtown Strategies works with numerous cities around the country.
"We work in 17 states," Gregory said. "We are based right here in Alabama, in Birmingham."
Gregory said she has worked in areas similar to Tallassee in the past to revitalize the downtown areas.
"I've worked specifically in communities for about the past 12-years. College towns in Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, to help communities just like yours imagine what it could be and how the community in downtown can be improved but with very implementable steps and solutions," she said.
Downtown Strategies goes into the community to better understand what will be best suited for the area.
"We host what we call strategic visioning workshops," Gregory said. "We come to a community and meet with downtown business owners like yourselves, elected officials, members of city staff, property owners, to try and uncover what the opportunities are, what the roadblocks are. It's a very collaborative process. We utilize our real-estate experience."
Tallassee city officials received the green light from the Federal Highway Administration for the Alabama Department of Transportation's Transportation Alternatives Program grant, also known as the TAP grant in October of 2020. This grant funding will give the downtown area a fresh new look along with new sidewalks and freshly paved roads. The overall projected project cost is $725,000, which will include $580,000 in federal funds through ALDOT. The city must provide the other 20%.
"It's a huge step forward and we want to help you guys build on that and really identify what all the steps are and in what order you should take those steps in order to get to where you want to go," Gregory said.
While the city only recently learned that the TAP grant project would soon begin, reviving the area has been an area of interest for many years.
"There has always been a big focus revitalizing your downtown," Cook said.
Cook said he once visited the Hotel Talisi with his grandfather.
"So, I know this area quite well, even though I never lived here," he said.
Retail Strategies works to help better understand which businesses are best suited for various areas of the city.
"It's all about the best thing for your community, identifying what your community wants, the history of the community that we don't know about, the successes that you would like to see come back, figuring out who those young or really local experts are, local people who want to move in that business," Cook said.
Cook explained that there is a trend of people moving from urban areas to more rural locations and he believes Tallassee has the potential to tap into that market.
Mayor Johnny Hammock asked if painting murals in the downtown area could draw attention to the city.
"Do you think some murals would brighten it up," he asked. "This is a very historical town, if we had some historic pieces or things like that, to kind of put it on the mural trail, do you think we could generate not only some local buzz but buzz from around the River Region?"
Gregory said that is something that has been done in similar cities.
"The opportunity is to position Tallassee as a unique downtown destination," she explained. "The goal is for Tallassee to be a destination."
Gregory also explained that buildings that are 50-years-old or older are considered historic and some tax credits may be available for those property owners.
Signage from the interstate to the downtown area was also brought up in the meeting.
"We provide prototypes for signage," she said.
"We also identify strategies for creatively filling vacancies," she said. "If you do have a vacant building, a way to really support entrepreneurs is that they feel confident opening a new business."
According to Gregory, Downtown Strategies works closely with Main Street Alabama, and suggests that could be the next logical step for the city. A nonprofit organization, Main Street Alabama stresses public-private partnerships, broad community engagement, and strategies that create jobs, spark new investment, attract visitors, and spur growth. Main Street builds on the authentic history, culture, and attributes of specific places, to bring sustainable change.
History and culture that Tallassee is rich with.
According to Gregory, from start to finish, the strategic plan would take about 3 months to complete.
If the city chooses to work with Downtown Strategies, work on the strategic plan could begin this spring.
"Right now, we are booked out for the next couple of months so we could start right away but it could be April or so before we could come and do the workshop, and from there it's about 4-6 weeks before your plan is in hand," Gregory said.