How can downtown Maryville be an even better place to live, work and play?
The Maryville Downtown Association, an organization formed by interested residents and business people, is conducting a survey on www.Blount Today.com to find out how best to improve downtown.
Association president Erin Hall said the group has been working on research to find out what people in the community feel is happening.
“We are interested in knowing what they enjoy about coming downtown, what activities they find interesting and what they feel is missing,” she said. “We can’t really make changes unless we know what’s needed.”
The association is asking everyone to share their input. The idea for the survey came recently when members were discussing marketing ideas for bringing more people downtown.
“We realized we were getting ahead of ourselves and didn’t know what people really wanted,” she said. “Taking those next steps might be premature until we really figure out things people are looking for.”
Hall said one aspect of downtown she appreciates is the parking situation.
“The free municipal parking is so convenient,” she said.
New businesses need to know what has been done before in downtown. The Maryville Downtown Association meets on the first Thursday of the month at 8 a.m. to discuss issues of importance to the downtown area.
“We’re trying to work together to devise a good system of communication. We’ve brought in speakers such as Bryan Daniels with Economic Development, Herb Handly with tourism and Tony Crisp and Mayor Joe Swann to answer questions,” Hall said.
Hall said the association also is working on getting the downtown area of Maryville listed as an historical district.
“It would be huge for the community to have that acknowledgement. Once people learn to appreciate what’s in their back yard, it will help a great deal,” she said.
Hall said the interest people have in downtown is growing, but certain issues remain. Some are concerned with parking, others cleanliness.
“The more people we have downtown, that’s going to be an issue,” she said.
Beautification is another subject the association is interested in discussing. The organization is also sponsoring flags to hang over sidewalks.
“We’ve talked about creating special events,” Hall said.
Hall praised the city for its work downtown.
“The city has done a really good job of taking care of the basics. It’s all here,” she said.
Hall also recognized Maryville Arts Coalition events coordinator Katie Gamble.
“Katie Gamble with the Arts Coalition is pulling everything together to get that started. That has been huge task,” she said.
According to the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, the downtown association was formed as a not-for-profit to promote downtown as a place to work, live, and recreate. The association uses its unified voice to communicate with area agencies and governmental bodies for its membership. The association also assists in identifying needs and improvements and to be a facilitator for downtown.
Hall said the association is establishing a website and members hope to soon have a newsletter.
“We’re trying to connection with people who have lived here and know the area and remember what it was like years ago,” she said.
Hall said members of the association also want to be liaisons.
“We’re trying to be available as a link for people in the community to relay information to those who can make changes,” she said. “The more people we have involved, the sooner we’ll get that. That is something we’re really staying focused on.”
Hall said she only hopes to see the association grow.
“You can be a member for $25 a year. Then you’ll have an incentive to send us information if you have an idea or suggestion,” she said. “We’re hoping to make people aware of what we’re doing and what we’ve done and want to do.”
The goal is simple.
“We’re hoping if we ask people what they think, they’ll realize they can be involved,” Hall said.
The group could have simply polled its own members, she said.
“I could ask everyone in the group how they feel,” Hall said, “but we’re trying to get information from people who might be downtown more if downtown had certain ingredients they’re looking for.”