OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs Main Street has received a national honor for its commitment to historic preservation and for the revitalization of the downtown area. The organization was only one of three in the country presented with the prestigious "Great American Main Street Award" Sunday. There are numerous reasons why Ocean Springs landed in the national spotlight.
On Monday, a banner at the entrance of Ocean Springs greeted visitors, proclaiming the city as a "Great American Main Street Award" winner.
"We had 1,300 people there yesterday and we were very proud, got lots of accolades," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.
The mayor joined Ocean Springs Main Street in accepting the award from the "National Trust for Historic Preservation" Sunday. Representatives are still attending the National Main Street Conference in New Orleans, and they plan to return to Mississippi on Wednesday.
The award honored Ocean Springs Main Street for its leadership in helping the community bounce back from major disasters, then, forming partnerships to transform the downtown area into a cultural tourism destination.
"I think it's a great recognition for the city," said Araturo Barajas, who owns three businesses in Ocean Springs Plaza. "It's one more honor that you can put on the city and attract more visitors to the area."
Ocean Springs Main Street was also praised for its beautification projects and for its efforts to spur economic development. For instance, it has helped attract more than 300-new businesses to the city since Katrina. Commercial vacancies also dropped drastically since the program was set up in 1980.
The organization also hosted year-round events, like the hugely popular Peter Anderson Festival, and it helped restore what was once an endangered historic high school into the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center on Government Street.
"It's not just about a nice downtown core, but also commitment to historic preservation," said Mayor Moran. "We have a lot of people all over the country who want to go to and seek out historic downtowns in communities like ours that offer a lot for people to do."
The national award will showcase what Ocean Springs residents have known all along: They have quite a gem in their downtown district.
Ocean Springs Main Street will be featured in the national publication "Main Street Now" this summer. The two other award winners are H Street Main Street in Washington D.C. and Rochester Downtown Development Authority in Rochester, Michigan.