Athens leaders hopeful new project will help downtown businesses bounce back

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ATHENS, Ala. – Downtown Athens is overhauling an old alleyway, making it into a place to eat and enjoy art. Athens leaders hope Merchant’s Alley will help businesses bounce back as more people return to the downtown area.

The project will cost $100,000 with $80,000 already raised by private donors.

“The thing that is lacking was that really cool, vibrant, gathering space,” said Tere Richardson of the overall feel of downtown Athens.

Richardson is in charge of Athens Main Street. She says the city wants to preserve its small-town feel while also creating a fresh, inclusive experience with Merchant’s Alley.

“We want to, at points, bring in vibrant new things that speak to new demographics.”

Richardson says Athens Main Street got an overwhelming response to their call out for artists to help paint a large mural among other art projects that will rotate in and out of the alley.

“As you go further down into the alley there will be art passages. These are doors. Actual physical doors that open. When you open those doors, there will be murals behind them,” said Richardson.

Students across Limestone County are competing to design an Instagram wall that will also change up from time to time. Another art piece in the alley will honor a yet-to-be-named local legend. The history doesn’t stop there either.

“The threshold that will welcome you into our alley, we will be using at least 100-year-old bricks that came from our old streets. We have about 500,” said Richardson.

Merchant’s Alley could start to take shape as early as June with art going up over the summer. Athens Main Street will have a live mural painting event on May 21st after 5 pm with music and food trucks.

While most of the money has been raised, Athens Main Street could use some help raising the remaining funds to finish the project. Click here if you are interested in donating or just want more information.

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