Down on Main Street: Thousands attend MainX24
Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- More than 5,000 people are celebrating the revitalization of Main Street at the MainX24 Festival.
The sign outside the owner of O.C.I. Furniture says he knew his community would eventually change for the better, but never expected it to happen in his lifetime.
"We had a good bit of crime, prostitution, drugs, everything you can image," says W.L. Goodman.
W.L. Goodman remembers well what this neighborhood looked like when he bought an existing furniture business over 35 years ago.
"We've seen its transition to young girls walking their dogs at 11 o'clock at night alone out here on East Main Street, so it's such a different place today than it was 10 to 20 years ago," says Goodman.
Goodman also remembers when MainX24 began four years, about the same time East Main Street began to change.
"A couple of foundations took an interest in the Southside and began to meet with us, the property owners out here, just to let us know what to envision it could be," says Goodman.
"It's grown tremendously. We got people from Hamilton County, but actually we get people from Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia, all over that come to see what's happening this year," says Josh McManus.
Josh McManus hasn't been a part of the East Main community for 35 years, but he is one of the many who fashioned MainX24 four.
"Main Street proper had very low occupancy at the time and there were folks just starting to move in," says McManus.
Today, thanks in part to MainX24, East Main Street is known as the arts center of Chattanooga, with many locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants.
For Goodman, what's happened on this street in the last five years is nothing short of a small miracle.
"I always believed that Main Street would come back, I never believed it would come back in my lifetime. I never dreamed anything like what we have here today with MainX24," says Goodman.
For the last five years, the city of Chattanooga has worked hand-in-hand with the Lyndhurst Foundation and many other private organizations.
The city has put thousands of taxpayer dollars into improving infrastructure. For example replacing curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.