Jasper goes green with new trees as part of historic city center revitalization

Jasper goes green with new trees as part of historic city center revitalization
Downtown Jasper is enjoying a wave of revitalization and beautification. (Cierra Juett)

Good Roots are being planted in Jasper. The historic downtown is being revitalized and beautified with the help of new trees, as part of plans to attract new businesses and people to the area.

Over the years, Jasper’s downtown business district suffered a downturn as businesses relocated to the surrounding highways.

In response, nonprofits such as Jasper Main Street, downtown Jasper’s revitalization organization, implemented a plan to enliven the downtown area of the 132-year-old city. That plan is now paying off, with new commercial activity drawing people to the city’s historic core.

As part of the plan, which launched June 1, 2015, the city established an entertainment district, among other initiatives. To date, 23 new businesses have located downtown, creating over 100 jobs and generating over $5 million in economic activity, said Mike Putman, Executive Director of Jasper Main Street.

Contributing to the success are trees, planted with the support of  Good Roots grants. An initiative of the Alabama Power Foundation, Good Roots helps pay for trees to be planted in communities across Alabama by nonprofits, schools, counties and municipalities. Within the last year, Walker County has been awarded eight Good Roots grants, with four supporting downtown Jasper.  Others in the area that have benefited from Good Roots grants are the Beacon House, Jasper City Schools and Bevill State Community College.

One element of the downtown project is redevelopment of the streetscape. “The streetscape project has been going on for the last five years: redoing the streets, sidewalks and planting trees,” said Britton Lightsey, manager of Alabama Power’s Jasper business office and a member of the Jasper Economic Vitality Committee. Lightsey said the project continues to expand as resources become available.

And folks are taking notice, Lightsey said, based on a recent survey given to Jasper residents and people who live outside the city, “There were over 1,100 surveys completed, and over 82 percent of people who took the survey said downtown Jasper was improving or making progress.” He said information gathered through the survey will be used to develop an updated plan, designed to continue the progress over the next five years.

The current progress in the downtown area has positively impacted its newest business, Thairapy Salon and Spa. “We were just excited about all of the new businesses and all the new work that was being put into downtown Jasper,” said Cindy Madison, the salon’s co-owner. Madison says their business has increased since their opening in March, attracting at least five new clients a week.

And coming this fall is Libby’s This and That! Libby Grimmett, co-owner of Thairapy Salon and Spa, will be bringing antiques, handcrafted items and seasonal supplies to downtown Jasper.

Yet another sign that, along with the new trees, downtown Jasper is growing and sprouting new life.

Applications are now available through the Alabama Power Foundation for the next round of Good Roots grants. The deadline to apply is July 31. For more information, go to www.powerofgood.com. Click “Grants” and then “Good Roots Grants.”

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