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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Square is center of attention

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whether you call it downtown or uptown, community and business leaders are circling around the Shelbyville square to better promote and improve it.

"We're interested in doing everything we can to promote our square and to improve it," said City Councilwoman Kay Rose.

'Fabulous' meeting

A new downtown task force held its first meeting Tuesday night to get organized and rank people's suggestions for the top strengths and weaknesses of the square, City Manager Jay Johnson said.

Task force member Cindy Stephenson said the meeting went well.

"It was a fabulous meeting," she said. "I think it will get our vision moving forward and catch us up with other communities."

A good mixture of task force members and observers attended, Johnson said, including a facilitator from the University of Tennessee who asked people to rank the square's top three strengths and weaknesses. He will report back next month.

Government presence

Johnson said he believes one of the square's strengths is that city and county governments have maintained their offices there instead of moving.

Historical buildings' architectural designs are strengths, he said, but poorly maintained buildings are a weakness. Johnson echoed several other people in saying parking can be a downtown weakness -- at least when court is in session.

Gary Simpson, co-owner of Pope's Cafe, said the city has a beautiful square and that people need to support downtown.

"The square is where everything started," he said. "It should be kept up and maintained."

Although some people say parking is an issue, he said, "you can park a block away and still be closer than you can at Walmart."


Dena Landers, owner of Merle Norman, said there is a lot of variety of shops downtown, as well as beautiful architecture. She's made a lot of friends in the three and a half years she has owned the business, she said.

"Everyone is friendly," she said. "It's like your own community."

Parking is one of the square's major weaknesses, she said, especially when court is in session.

Visible 'uptown'

Calvin Cannon owns the Torso store on the square and is involved in the Uptown Business Association, which holds such events as the chili cookoff. The group will hold the first annual Date Night on the Square, an event that will include a bridal fair, on Feb. 8.

Cannon said the business association is now labeling itself with "uptown" to refer to the downtown being highly visible from other parts of the city because it sits on a hill.

One of the Square's greatest strengths, he said, is that it was the first true American-designed downtown square -- previous downtown squares were based on European designs. Other downtown squares that followed were based on Shelbyville's square, he said.

"A weakness is we don't let anyone know about it," he said.

Main Street sought

Cannon said he has been involved in past efforts to get Shelbyville designated as a Main Street Community, but those efforts did not work for various reasons.

Although he was not asked to be part of the task force, he said he attended the meeting as an observer. He said the task force could possibly succeed in pursuing the Main Street designation.

The next task force meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Chamber of Commerce.

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