Downtown Corsicana, Texas, is a place where the past and present meet. The original brick streets carry residents and visitors to exciting neighborhood eateries, entertainment venues, shops and urban living spaces throughout the 26-block area that have become an enterprising enclave within the vibrant community of 25,000.
Central to this hub is the Corsicana Main Street Program, which was first designated an official Texas Main Street City in 1985. The program is annually accredited by the Texas Historical Commission as well as Main Street America and works to assist in the revitalization of the downtown area using a combination of historic preservation and economic development strategies.
“We work to preserve the downtown heritage by fostering community pride and involvement through events, volunteerism and community outreach,” said Amy Tidwell, director of the Corsicana Main Street Program. “We inspire business development and create strong historic preservation ethics using the Texas Main Street four-point approach.”
When opportunity knocks
Tidwell says those in the downtown community all enjoy being part of Corsicana Main Street. They know the program works hard to promote and support locally owned and operated businesses; so much so that potential businesses are knocking on the door to be part of it.
“More people now than ever want to be a part of our program because they understand how truly special it is,” she said. “The support of our general community is one that I cannot express in words. They have been unwavering in their support for the Main Street community over the years, especially during the 2020 shutdown and COVID-19 pandemic.”
She said small businesses relied on the support of the community to keep their doors open throughout the crisis, and the community was more than willing to help. In the months that followed every business was able to reopen, and downtown Corsicana has proven to be a driving force for entrepreneurship and reinvestment.
In the last year alone $2.1 million has been reinvested in the downtown area, and the district has welcomed 15 new businesses, including a brewery, restaurants, boutiques and a recording studio. Since January, it has added five new businesses and two relocations including a winery, a children’s clothing boutique and a yoga studio. More than $1 million has been reinvested in the first quarter of 2022.
“Over the years, our Main Street program has put in place many of the beautification efforts that we still implement today,” Tidwell said. “Sidewalk grants are continually implemented to update needed areas. Sandwich boards are provided to new retailers and restaurants. Downtown twinkle lights illuminate our downtown all year round. Benches are added for more seating. Privately funded bronze statues commemorate historical figures in Corsicana, and we have two beautiful pocket parks that are maintained by our parks department.”
In the past year, the Navarro Council of the Arts began an Art Alley next to the historic Palace Theater where art murals are continually being installed. The project is an effort to clean up the alleyway while providing the perfect place for residents and guests to take a selfie.
“We strive to always think of new beautification efforts to continue making our downtown presentable and vibrant,” Tidwell said.
There’s no place like home
A native of Corsicana, Tidwell received her undergraduate degree from Texas Woman’s University in Denton and served as a public educator until 2017, when she and her husband returned home to be near their families. That year, she began working at one of the community’s small businesses and fell in love with everything they stand for. She learned the importance of supporting local businesses and what those entities mean to the local economy as well as how much they give of themselves to the greater good. It was then that she knew she wanted to be part of the Corsicana Main Street program and serve her community on a bigger platform.
“I have seen first-hand the tremendous revitalization that has taken place downtown,” she said. “I started my job as Main Street/Tourism Director for the city of Corsicana in January 2021, and it has been such a rewarding experience. It is truly an honor to serve in my position and promote all the beautiful things taking place in our community.”
Tidwell said historically, a downtown district was often the heart of the city. Main Street programs all over the U.S. work to preserve their old buildings so that in another hundred years they can still tell the same stories from when they were first built. Without such a program in place, there would not be the exciting synergy that comes from the small business community working to promote the historic areas.
“Downtown Corsicana is the heart of our city, and because of our Main Street program, we have been able to see our downtown shine like the gem that it is,” she said.