Six years ago, restoring downtown Greenwood was an idea with many possibilities, but just as many uncertainties.
On Saturday, at the sixth annual Old Town Greenwood Community Clean-Up Day, restoring old town Greenwood was no longer a hope — it was happening.
On light poles and business doors along Main Street and Madison Avenue, banners remind motorists and pedestrians that businesses are still open. And along Main Street, the wooden structure of a new storefront is in the early stages of construction.
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In the last three weeks, a $1.7 million project to restore the façades of 22 downtown buildings began, kick-starting a long awaited revamping of Old Town Greenwood. On Saturday, about 50 volunteers went through alleys, along the side of Madison Avenue and Main Street and throughout Market Plaza collecting trash.
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers praised Restore Old Town Greenwood’s continued efforts to bring change to downtown.
The façade restoration project is long awaited and much needed, and it’s only the beginning, Myers said.
Five years ago, downtown Greenwood businesses had 80 percent vacancy, Myers said. As of Saturday, downtown is now 90 percent occupied and it’s all because of Restore Old Town Greenwood, Myers said.
The façade restoration project brought more purpose to those who volunteered their Saturday morning, said Nick Nemeth, a member of Restore Old Town Greenwood.
“People are taking a lot of pride in what’s going on (downtown),” Nemeth said. “This is a community effort. But the kids who are out here today, they’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I helped Old Town Greenwood look better.’ They’ll be the ones who work at a business and live in downtown Greenwood, working shopping and eating in the same area.”
Southside residents Melissa and Brandt Summitt brought their 7-year-old son, Colin, to join in the clean-up. The Summitts began planning on attending the community clean-up as far back as March, they said.
For Brandt and Melissa, Saturday was their first look at the designs for the façade restorations. Renderings showing each of the 22 buildings’ restored look was on display.
Colin was excited to help people, he said. Colin was one of many children there with a Cub Scout, Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop.
Southside resident Jamie Essex brought his 7-year-old son, Jack, to the clean-up. As a Cub Scout, Jack is required to spend a certain amount of hours volunteering with local projects, Essex said. But Essex also brought Jack to instill the importance of giving back to the community, Essex said.
Volunteers of all ages came to kick off the façade restoration project and volunteer their time making downtown cleaner and better looking, and that encouraged Myers, he said.
More than 200 volunteers were expected to attend, and the event was initially scheduled for April 30, but was postponed due to rain. Rain came and went as volunteers walked through downtown collecting trash, which was likely a reason for the smaller turnout, Nemeth said.
“You always anticipate fewer people than the amount that signed up,” Myers said. “But I thought we had a good mix of people. This was a win for the city.”