Kathy Phillips, Director of Heber Springs Downtown Network was the presenter at the July 25 meeting of the Rotary Club of Heber Springs. Ms. Phillips joined the Downtown Network as director in late August 26. Heber Springs Downtown Network is an affiliate of the Main Street Arkansas program.
Ms. Phillips explained the beginnings of the organization. Before World War II, downtowns were both the center of commercial and social life for many cities. With the rise of what she called “car culture,” improved roadways and more transportation options, cities began to spread, and downtowns began to decline. From 950 to 1980, most downtowns faced serious declines and many were boarded up all together. To try to revitalize downtowns in Arkansas, Main Street Arkansas was formed in 1985.
“The preservation and revitalization of our downtown is not just a feel-good project,” Ms. Phillips said. “A healthy city core is essential to economic development as well. Just as if the core of an apple is rotten, so is the entire apple, the same is true of our downtown district. Companies wanting to relocate to our area will look at our downtown as an indicator of economic growth and success. It is essential that our downtown district is vital, engaging and successful.”
The mission of the Heber Springs Downtown Network is to promote economic vitality while preserving the charm of historic downtown Heber Springs. The Downtown Network follows Main Street’s Four-Point approach to revitalization, focusing on organization, promotion, design and economic vitality. In the last eleven months, the Downtown Network has partnered the Kickstart Quality of Life Committee on downtown beautification projects, and has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a number of occasions. The two have worked together to provide promotion opportunities to downtown merchants, including special district-wide sales promotions along with Springfest, Fireworks Extravaganza and the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races. The “Summer Sizzle Downtown” promotion has also brought visitors downtown for the “First Friday” series on the courthouse lawn. On the first Friday of each month through September, live music and activities are planned on the Square, and downtown merchants have extended hours to better serve their customers. Also in the works are a series of live radio remotes with 101.9 The Lake.
Downtown Network has also provided building improvement grants to two downtown merchants this summer. The matching grants allowed for the storefront to be repainted at Dreamweaver Children’s Shoppe, and the replacement of the awning in front of Heber Sew-N-Vac. “The 2017-18 Grant Cycle is just beginning,” Ms. Phillips said. “Be sure to watch for the notice of the opening of the application period soon.” For more information about the Heber Springs Downtown Network and their activities, as well as how you or your company can participate in the revitalization and preservation of downtown, please visit their website: www.downtownhebersprings.com
or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DowntownHeberSprings .
The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The Rotary Club of Heber Springs meets each Tuesday at noon on the ASU-Heber Springs Campus. For more information about the Rotary Club of Heber Springs, please visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/TheRotaryClubofHeberSpringsAR.