Since Opelika Main Street’s founding in 1987, downtown Opelika has grown from a sleepy business district that had seen better days into a bustling hub of commerce and entertainment that is the envy of many cities.

Downtown’s success has not happened overnight, it has taken the hard work of dozens of dedicated citizens, developers and business owners willing to think outside the box in order to make this growth happen.

In partnership with various groups, Opelika Main Street has participated in numerous studies and reports on how to continue downtown’s success. These reports tend to have an important recommendation in common: the need for more housing in and around downtown.

Housing is an important piece to the complex puzzle that is downtown redevelopment. Countless studies across the nation have shown that residents that live in or within walking distance of downtown spend higher amounts at downtown shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. This in turn creates jobs and much needed tax revenue that funds schools, public safety and recreation opportunities.

In the recently completed Opelika Main Street Real Estate Redevelopment Plan, a joint project of Opelika Main Street, Opportunity Alabama and Main Street Alabama, statistics show that the estimated financial impact of 200 new housing units in and around downtown would equate to over $7.1 million in retail trade and over $870,000 in food/drink expenditures along with over $400,000 in additional city/county sales tax revenue.

Additionally, the report states: “In order for existing businesses and new businesses in the district to be more successful, the community should look to increase density by adding additional housing units in the downtown core and in near neighborhoods.”

New housing in and around downtown is key to continuing the growth of downtown Opelika, because when downtown thrives, all of Opelika benefits.

Ken Ward serves as the executive director of Opelika Main Street.