By Drew Butler
In recent years downtown Ardmore has experienced noticeable growth. In order to keep the momentum going and help steer that growth, the Ardmore Main Street Authority has hired a consultant, Hilary Greenberg of Charlotte, N.C., to give them a few ideas.
“Ardmore Main Street is known for putting on really good events and having some really good promotions, but what Main Street is really all about is economic activities,” Greenberg said. “They would really like to try figure out how to fill all of the underutilized
buildings in area. They also want to help the existing businesses in Ardmore because there are some really good businesses here already that they would like to better support.”
Main Street’s ultimate goal is also Greenberg’s specialty.
“What I do for a living is I work with downtowns across the country,” Greenberg said. “So it’s not that I really know Ardmore or that I really know Oklahoma, it’s about putting what people say they want to do into the context of what I know has worked for other towns to give Ardmore some ideas.”
To help her get a grasp of Ardmore, she has interviewed numerous residents.
“We’ve interviewed about 35 people in groups, so they’ve come to me,” Greenberg said.
She has also gone out to some local stores to interview the owners and employees.
“When you’re a consultant it’s kind of like being a doctor,” Greenberg said. “People tend to not go to the doctor for wellness checkups, you go because you have a problem. I’ve worked with towns with lots more issues than Ardmore, but I’ve also worked with towns who have more issues that have done far more.”
She said it’s all about finding out what the community wants to see happen, how people define “success,” and what people are willing to accept.
“So we’ve got to make downtown relevant,” Greenberg said. “We’ve got to make downtown matter, and we’ve got to say to everyone that it can’t be 40 years from now. It has to be now.”
She went on to say that in some ways Ardmore is doing so well that it’s easy to get complacent, and people might not be worrying too much because the sky isn’t falling — yet.
“A good example of something that should have woken people up is the building that fell down,” Greenberg said. “That could have been your whole downtown, and that still could be your whole downtown. We’ve had some places where that has happened, everything caught fire or a storm has blown everything away. You can’t rebuild it, and the truth is the whole city dies when that happens.”
In order to avert such a fate Greenberg has presented a few ideas already to the AMA.
“There are different kinds of mixed uses you can bring to the buildings you have,” Greenberg said. “This will add to the buildings quality and make them worth more money which is a good thing for everybody.”
Greenberg will soon go back to North Carolina but will be returning, likely in November, to present her conclusions and final findings to the AMA.