For Immediate Release
Friday, June 2, 2023
Contact: Mark Ard
PRESS RELEASE: Secretary Byrd Designates Fort Meade Main Street as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. –
Today, Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced that Main Street Fort Meade, in Fort Meade, Polk County, has been designated the June 2023 Florida Main Street Program of the Month.
“It is a pleasure to honor a program like Main Street Fort Meade for being a pillar of prosperity in Polk County,” says Secretary Byrd. “Fort Meade is one of our newest Main Street programs, and already they have implemented ideas and concepts that undoubtedly show their passion for preserving their heritage while preparing for future long-term success in Central Florida.”
Picture courtesy of Main Street Fort Meade
Fort Meade, the oldest city in Polk County, was established in 1849 as a stopping point along a new military road from Tampa to Fort Pierce during the Seminole Wars. The town derives its name from George Meade, who constructed the concept of the community during his service as a Lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers. In the 1880s, the downtown business district was located on what is now Broadway Street, which today is part of the Main Street district. Fort Meade has over 300 homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which date back to the late 1800s.
With a population of just over 6,000 citizens, Fort Meade has always been a close-knit community. When the phosphate mining boom of the 1950s and 1960s moved further south, businesses in Fort Meade slowly began closing their doors. By the early 2000s, nearly half of all storefronts in downtown Fort Meade were unoccupied. In the spring of 2020, a group of dedicated citizens collaborated with local officials and City of Fort Meade staff with the goal of making Fort Meade a Florida Main Street community. Main Street’s unique Four-Point approach and supportive guidance were exactly what they needed to bring the historic downtown back to life.
Since its designation in October of 2020, Main Street Fort Meade (MSFM) has hosted events drawing thousands of visitors, received numerous grants, and assisted in welcoming several new businesses to their downtown, while also finding new ways to promote existing establishments. MSFM’s most successful events have included a Back to School Bash; a Glow in the Dark Easter Egg Hunt just for teens; and the now annual tradition of Merry Main Street Christmas, held on the first Friday of December, to kick off the holiday season. MSFM is currently working to bring the Community Heart and Soul program to town, “a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it,” according to the program’s website.
Executive Director Stephanie Smith is enthusiastic about the progress already made and the potential of what the community could be. “Main Street Fort Meade is early in its revitalization process,” said Director Smith. “We are working hard to establish our program within the Florida Main Street organization, and we are honored to be recognized this month. In the future, our goals are to continue to grow our downtown by aiding entrepreneurs, while continuing to advertise and support current and future businesses via social media and downtown functions. We plan to continue hosting events that will draw visitors to our historic city, while helping to stimulate economic growth. Our mission is to reestablish downtown as the heart of commerce, culture, and community.”
About Florida Main Street
Florida Main Street is a program administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, which currently oversees 57 communities throughout the state. By implementing the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach, Florida Main Street encourages economic development within the context of historic preservation through the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns—the community’s heart and soul.