Georgia | 2003 Great American Main Street Award® Winner | Posted: 5/19/2003
Where the rivers meet and the mountains begin, you will find Rome, Georgia. This historic city center and county seat was founded in 1834 as a trade center for textiles and metals.
In the 1970s, the relocation of two major retailers to a new mall was the catalyst for the decline of Rome's commercial district. It increasingly looked neglected with deteriorating buildings and a 25 percent vacancy rate and was cluttered with haphazard signs and aluminum façades. The barrier created by the four-lane main street and the absence of landscaping further contributed to the downtown's barren appearance, which in turn eroded its community pride and retail sales.
Concerned merchants and property owners formed the Rome Downtown Development Authority in 1979 to increase support to save downtown. Shortly thereafter, the newly formed Georgia Main Street program accepted Rome as a member. By using the four-point approach to commercial revitalization, Rome made great strides in their first five years. It stimulated more than $8 million in reinvestment; made business loans totaling $3 million; and completed 92 rehab and new construction projects. By 1990, public and private investments reached $22.65 million-almost double the national average-and supported a successful streetscaping project that created new green spaces and transformed the four-lane main street-once a barrier-into welcoming, pedestrian-friendly environment.
For more than 21 years, Rome has sustained its historic preservation approach to creating a vibrant central business district using its expansive stock of Victorian-era buildings. It has done so through continuously engaged public and private partners in the process.
Today, Rome's commercial district has 98 percent occupancy, 15 restaurants, major public facilities, 2,700 employees, 120 building rehabilitations, tremendous upper story residential and commercial development (90 units), numerous social opportunities, and an active nightlife. Rome has created a sense of place and community that is inviting to customers and new merchants alike.
The National Trust Main Street Center awarded Rome a 2003 Great American Main Street Award on May 19, 2003, during the National Trust's annual Town Meeting on Main Street conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For more information about Rome's efforts to revitalize their historic commercial district, contact Rome Downtown Development Authority at (706) 236-4477 or visit www.romegacitygov.org.