- Associated Press - Thursday, November 9, 2017

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Mayor David Grissom appears excited when he see’s everything that is happening downtown.

For years, economic development efforts stagnated as just a few open businesses were scattered among several vacant buildings. That’s not the case anymore.

In June, the city’s first loft apartments were opened.

“There’s more loft apartments on the way, and other property owners are making plans for more renovations,” Grissom said. “And now we have a property owner remodeling one of the buildings, turning it into a restaurant downstairs and a boutique motel upstairs.

“There seems to be more activity and interest in downtown than ever before.”

Grissom’s goal, when he started a downtown revitalization committee in 2016, was to breathe new life into the central business district.

“It’s happening. We have people coming downtown,” he said. “We have one restaurant (Destination) just a couple of blocks off of Jackson Avenue, and with the new restaurant opening soon, it’s really going to attract more people to downtown.”

Trent Stephenson and his family are opening The Bricks restaurant and boutique hotel.

“We’re going to hire an executive chef. The goal is to have something to bring people into Russellville,” Stephenson said.

He said the boutique hotel will have five rooms. Each one will have a different design and fixtures.

“We will have two large banquet rooms upstairs that will be available for a variety of uses,” Stephenson said.

Work is finishing up on the building, and Stephenson said he hopes to have the restaurant open sometime in December.

Much of the work down on the renovation has been done by clients with the Dream Center, a life recovery program for people with any kind of addiction or lifestyle problem or issue.

“We have several talented people who want to get involved and to give back to the community,” said Shawn Reathford, director and founder of the Dream Center.

“We do rehab, counseling and treatment, but we are very big on community outreach,” Reathford said. “That’s why we are working on thess projects, we are giving back.”

The Dream Center clients have painted the outside of buildings, worked inside on renovations, and “done whatever is needed.”

“They have been a great asset to the renovations downtown,” Grissom said. “They’re very skilled and are willing to get involved and to work.”

Reathford said the clients of the Dream Center, which opened in 2007, have really “gotten involved.”

“Our purpose is to get people back into the groove of understanding how to be productive members of society,” Reathford said. “We are taking men and women who were broken and working to fix them. Our motto is that everybody needs to learn how to give. We try to instill that in our clients.

“If we give them treatment and they don’t learn how to give, they will be takers. Being a part of this gives them a purpose in life, and allows them to give back to the community that has helped them,” he said.

“This shows how the different facets of the community have come together to be a part of bringing new life to downtown,” Grissom said. “It’s exciting to see what is happening and to be a part of it.”

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