MILLEDGEVILLE — Milledgeville racked up the hardware at the 2013 Georgia Downtown Association Conference Aug. 14-16 in Savannah.
The City of Milledgeville Main Street received the 2013 Award of Excellence in Downtown Development Program of the Year.
Milledgeville Main Street and Downtown Development Authority Director Carlee Schulte also got her Georgia Downtown Development Professional Certification and received one of two scholarships for a trip to the 2014 National Main Street Conference in Detroit, Mich.
In addition to the Main Street achievements, Frank Pendergast, owner of The Baldwin Lofts, received the 2013 Award of Excellence Gold Medal presented by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and the Georgia Downtown Association.
Milledgeville Main Street bested 96 Georgia Main Street communities. That award brings $1,000 back to the program, while The Baldwin Lofts award earned a $500 prize.
“It's a huge deal, and we are very excited. It shows the importance of what we do, and the impact we are having not only locally but also statewide,” Schulte said.
The brand new small business BOOST grant program played a role in the program of the year designation.
BOOST provides grant money to downtown small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Business owners are only eligible for the grant once per year. The money must go toward specific items such as a new sign, piece of equipment or marketing need.
The program currently has more than 30 BOOSTERS pledging to donate $100 twice a year, while some agreed to put forth more.
Milledgeville's Downtown Development Authority's BOOST initiative handed out its first grants earlier this month. Amici Italian Café, Hair Bar and Blossoms Florist all received $1,000 from the small business incentive program.
Schulte said BOOST's crowd funding model has become a national standard Milledgeville added to develop business.
The $1,000 conference award will go to BOOST. Schulte was also asked to be a speaker during the upcoming national conference to speak about the success.
Pendergast was thrilled for the gold medal for The Baldwin Lofts' design and innovative use of financing utilizing both the downtown revolving loan and Georgia Cities Foundation funds, as well as multiple federal and state tax credit programs for historic preservation.
“It shows the diligence it took to follow through with this project. I appreciate the city for working with us to achieve it through updating code and for the city realizing changes are necessary to do good things. Some changes took long discussions. For me, having the DCA award this proves to everyone that I was doing the right thing, and the city is gaining momentum and moving in the right direction,” Pendergast said.
The Baldwin Lofts brings an interesting take on urban renewal. The old Horne Building erected in 1903 now houses 15 apartments, a courtyard and two commercial spaces throughout its three floors.
Owner and the city alike learned how to work with some fresh financing tools for this adaptive reuse of a historic property.
The gold standard award is hard work identified.
“It proves that the city recognizes there are other opportunities for development. Their willingness to work with developers should encourage others to seek out the City of Milledgeville for their projects,” Pendergast said. “It shows the city is willing and open to looking at all projects and to give them more than just a look over.”
Since Schulte took over Main Street and the DDA July 2010, she's made sure the groups are moving forward with something at all times no matter what. Schulte said making things happen downtown helps our community.
The Main Street Director said redevelopment efforts at Central State Hospital and the work at the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Industrial Park compliment North Columbia Street growth. Last week's awards will bring attention to the entire area.
“There is progress happening throughout Baldwin County. For us to get the statewide award, people will notice all of Milledgeville not just downtown,” Schulte said.
As a major player in city development for the last 20 years, Pendergast urged local officials to keep pushing.
“I would encourage the city and the county to take a moment to be grateful for what we have. Just because we are here doesn't mean we don't want to keep going. Let's not sit back. Let's work even harder to move forward,” he said.
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