Downtown Dade City Main Street closed its doors this week after more than 25 years of operation promoting the historic downtown district.
The organization that had as its goal improving the appearance and economic stability of downtown Dade City had suffered a financial decline since 2007, said Downtown Dade City Main Street board member and treasurer Julie Cotton.
“We’re a [nonprofit],” Cotton said. “You have to be financially supported by the general public. It came to the point where I don’t think we were getting the word out enough about the great things we did.”
Downtown Dade City Main Street organized the Antique Faire, the Scarecrow Festival and the Christmas Stroll. The organization also screened applicants for the Community Redevelopment Agency grants.
Financial problems began to develop in 2007 as large sponsorships began to fall off. “As the economy weakened, our sponsors did too — not like all at once, it was gradual — over a few years,” said Cotton, who had been the treasurer since 2007.
Cotton said that the program could have continued. “I think we could have limped along. We came to a point where we would have to re-strategize and come up with a different plan of action. We weren’t forced into this, but we wanted to be in control of it. We wanted it to happen on our terms rather than let it happen to us. Ultimately, we wanted to be proud of what we did.”
In the end they felt as though they had accomplished what they set out to do and could close the program down with dignity, Cotton said.
A Main Street press release said: “During its tenure, Main Street spearheaded the restoration of the Historic Courthouse and other significant historic buildings, funded and coordinated the construction of downtown public restrooms, implemented streetscape improvements to Meridian Avenue, assisted in bringing many new businesses to the downtown district, established through the city a CRA overseeing long-range improvements, and administered a grant program funded by the City of Dade City to revitalize buildings in the downtown district. The organization was also host to the 2012 State Main Street Conference in September 2012.”
“The purpose of Main Street was always to revitalize the downtown district,” said Downtown Dade City Main Street President Nancy Johnson. “We have accomplished that goal — our downtown looks better than ever, with many new businesses open, and many buildings receiving ‘face lifts’ through our grant program. We are incredibly proud of the job Main Street has done to promote and restore our community, and believe the time is right to hand things over to the merchants to carry on the mission.”
The Downtown Dade City Main Street program had actually lasted longer than most programs. At 25 years it had gone 15 years past the life expectancy of most programs, said Florida Main Street Program Assistant Alexander Carlson. Carlson works for the Florida Main Street Bureau of Historic Preservation, the parent organization in Tallahassee.
“The idea of improving the appearance and economic stability of downtown Dade City was initiated by a group of concerned citizens in 1985, who wanted to preserve and protect the historic downtown district. Downtown Dade City Main Street, Inc. was officially established in 1987, as part of the Florida Main Street Program,” said Main Street’s press release.
The Dade City Chamber of Commerce, the Merchants Association or the city will take over the work of the organization. Dade City City Manager Billy Poe said that the city would absorb the work of the CRA screenings back through city staff.
Vickie West of Betty Cakes Cake Shop in downtown Dade City eulogized the organization in a Facebook post. “Thanks so much to all who have worked with Main Street over the years, for your support both financially and with volunteer hours. Please know your labor was not in vain. Main Street has accomplished its mission,” West said.
The program could be opened again, if needed. “You never lose your charter,” Cotton said. “The charter will always stay, it’s just inactive.”