downtown award

Mathew Hill, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, stands on Newcastle Street in Brunswick. The city was recently added to the state’s Main Street Cities, even topping out as one of the best programs in the Georgia.

Bobby Haven/The Brunswick News

Mathew Hill and his team at the Downtown Development Authority have worked hard to revitalize the Brunswick historic area’s retail district. It seems that effort is paying off.

Hill was recently informed that Brunswick was selected by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) as one of 16 Exceptional Mainstreet Programs out of the state's 94 Main Street programs.

“Each year, we submit a report to the Department of Community Affairs that details our efforts throughout the year. Georgia’s Exceptional Main Streets programs are selected based on this assessment process,” Hill explained. “It’s not something that we can actively apply for, we just have to do the best we can to be an effective Main Street program.”

In addition to Brunswick, the other 15 locations selected include Bainbridge, Columbus, Dahlonega, Greensboro, Madison, Milledgeville, Moultrie, Newnan, Rome, Statesboro, Thomasville, Tifton, Toccoa, Tybee Island and Valdosta. According to the DCA, each city was chosen due to the positive impact that the Main Street Program has had on its local historic district.

Eight other cities were added to the Mainstreet program as well. Brunswick has been a Mainstreet city since 1986. The criteria for selection as an "exceptional" program includes bringing in new businesses and cultivating job creation as well as taking on rehabilitation projects and downtown housing.

For Hill, the news came as a surprise and an honor.

“This year, only eight of Georgia’s Main Street programs were selected as GEM programs. We are proud to be one of these eight and now one of 16 programs throughout Georgia that have obtained the designation in the past two years. There are 94 Main Street programs in Georgia, so being selected out of that large field is indeed an honor,” he said.

As one of the eight new Georgia Main Street Cities, Brunswick will gain access to special one-on-one technical services offered by the Office of Downtown Development, such as strategic planning sessions, board retreats and work plan development, along with scholarship opportunities and discounted rates for training and design services.

“Being awarded the GEMS designation is high praise for our local program. The designation shows our dedication and commitment to the program and our downtown,” Hill said.

“The designation provides reduced fees for our required trainings throughout the year, priority access to scholarships and we will be highlighted on the Office of Downtown Development website and social media. We will also receive the National Main Street Center’s designation as a ‘Main Street America Premier’ community when that program rolls out in the near future.”