By Tia Lyn Lecorchick staff writer

Madison is one of 12 Georgia towns to receive a Georgia Main Street award this year, winning in the category of excellence in design. The awards were announced at the 35th Anniversary Banquet for the Georgia Main Street Program, held Feb. 26 in Douglasville.

The Georgia Main Street Program evaluates 96 Georgia cities and determines each year’s winners based on economic development performance indicators that each city submits to the program each month. Monica Callahan, planning director for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), is thrilled that the city’s efforts are being recognized.

“The award is nice outside-of-the-community positive reinforcement for hard work. The Historic Preservation Commission, who works thanklessly to protect our historic resources, and the Downtown Development Authority, who works to encourage infill and revitalization that respects our heritage while encouraging growth, should be so proud of their legacy to the community,” said Callahan.

“The community should know that the award recognizes good design based on a preservation-approach – saved heritage and sensitive infill. Main Street received the award because of the work of both HPC (Historic Preservation Commission) and DDA – two of the four arms of Main Street. Our community is one of the strongest in the state because our groups work together, not against one another, and it shows,” added Callahan.

“We were very excited to receive this award. We were very honored to be chosen as an example for good design practices as it relates to the Main Street program,” said Ann Huff, special project coordinator for the city. Callahan credits Madison’s long tradition of consistency and vigilance when it comes to progress and development.

“It is so easy to lose community character through incremental, knee-jerk decision-making. For 35 plus years, Madison has been able to articulate a downtown vision and work toward it with great support from the elected body. There are communities that have better downtown buildings and communities that have more financial resources. Having consistent support, good building stock, and community investment is priceless,” explained Callahan. Both Callahan and Huff plan to continue working toward their ideal vision of Madison.

“ Ann and I are always talking about the future of Downtown Madison – the historic and future heart of an agrarian community with fully occupied buildings and successful businesses, with events that draw families for making memories in Town Park, and with a historic charm that preserves our heritage and attracts visitors who want have a Rockwellian moment,” said Callahan. Gretchen Corbin, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA), explained the Main Street Program’s vision for Georgia cities.

“Establishing a vibrant and flourishing downtown speaks volumes about a community’s commitment to economic growth for its citizens and its businesses,” said Corbin. According to the Main Street Program press release, “is a national, community-based development initiative in which public and private entities collaborate to revitalize downtowns.

One of the largest and most successful Main Street networks in the country, Georgia’s program is a key part of DCA’s mission to partner with communities in creating a climate for economic development success.

Since Georgia joined the national Main Street program in 1980, the state’s Main Street communities have created 58,000+ net new jobs, nearly 12,000 net new small businesses and $3 billion in public and private investment in 96 downtowns across the state.” The Main Street Program will continue to support Georgia cities in coming years. “Georgia’s Main Streets are the jewels of our state and play a critical part in economic development,” said Corbin.