Main Street Anniston has new director, board, plans for future downtown

Ben Nunnally, The Anniston Star, Ala.
·3 min read

Apr. 22—Jackson Hodges doesn't want to reinvent Noble Street, but repurpose it.

Hodges, the new director of Main Street Anniston, said Wednesday that his long-term vision for the street at the city's heart is similar to the redevelopment of Birmingham's industrial areas, turning heavy-duty infrastructure into mixed-use retail and residential spaces. Noble Street could be lined in ground-floor businesses and second-story loft apartments.

But that's just where he's looking for the far future, well beyond the five-year plan he expects to see developed in the next few months.

"It's really just one building at a time, one day at a time," Hodges said.

It's only been about a month since Hodges, son of Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges, was appointed as director of Main Street Anniston. (He's been the city's public information officer for about a year now, as well.) The organization has already changed a great deal in just a few weeks.

Last week, Hodges hired event coordinator Karla Eden, who will work with him on community involvement.

"My responsibility is to bring a positive, fun and inviting atmosphere to downtown Anniston," Eden wrote in a text message. "It's exciting to work alongside Jackson and watch our vision unfold."

Tuesday night, the City Council appointed six new members to the seven-person Main Street board of directors, with appointees representing each of the city's four wards.

Wednesday morning, Hodges announced that Downtown Strategies, a Birmingham company, would meet with local business owners and create a five-year plan for revitalizing Noble Street. The company, a division of Retail Strategies, had previously worked with the city's planning and economic development departments and brought new businesses to the city, Hodges said.

The process should be quick, he explained. The first official planning call will be held Friday, Hodges said, with the resulting plan expected to arrive in a few months.

The plan will likely include streetscaping projects to beautify the area, steps to bring older buildings up to code and efforts to connect with absentee property owners — those who live out of state, for instance — and others who are local but have limited involvement with their properties.

"A comprehensive plan gives us clear, definable objectives that we can accomplish over the next five years," Hodges said.

Upkeep and renewal won't be reserved for just Noble Street, Hodges said. Plans will also include West 15th Street, the former home of the Black community's "City Within a City," which was an economic hub in segregated Anniston and included in Main Street's sphere of influence.

Main Street's board membership seems to indicate that representation is, in fact, high on the list of priorities.

Members include:

— Kristin Fillingim, marketing director of Regional Medical Center;

— Thomas Zimmerman, owner of Pooh's Barber Shop;

— Chris Collins, former Anniston fire chief;

— Jacqueline Judkins, one of the "Pink Queens" cancer survivors and a community event organizer;

— Christopher Carr, travel writer;

— Dara Murphy, owner of Rosa Lee Boutique; and

— Christa Morphis, of Model City Insurance, who was reappointed to her seat.

"They're a good cross-section; they all relate to different community groups," Hodges said.

New leadership and the new plan should put business owners and city leaders on the same page, Hodges explained, and help keep faith alive for Anniston's downtown.

"It should help property owners feel more secure that we're focusing on the area and trying to develop it," Hodges said. "There are a lot of good things happening downtown ... so we're capitalizing on the momentum."

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.