History & Future of Main Street
Morristown’s Main Street area, with an approximate area of a square mile, grew up around a waterway known as Turkey Creek and the intersection of two railroad lines. In 1962, the creek flooded, nearly wiping out the downtown commercial district. At the same time, a suburban shopping mall on the city’s west side was draining the vitality of the historic downtown district, and the city developed a plan to modernize Main Street by creating an “overhead sidewalk” that would turn the second floor of the existing buildings into a new “street” while serving as a canopy for the sidewalks below. Building owners spent nearly $2 million upgrading their properties and linking them to the ramp, while the government contributed over $5 million to build the elevated walkways and to enlarge and reroute the underground channel carrying Turkey Creek. The project was completed in 1967, and the city fathers hoped it would turn the dilapidated central business district into a bright and enticing commercial haven and aesthetically place the downtown on par with any shopping center. In the end, however, the Skymart was no match for air-conditioned and enclosed suburban shopping malls, and it has served as little more than a roof over the sidewalk and a remnant of the idealism of 1960s urban renewal. However, the overhead sidewalks still stand.
Morristown is embarking on a resurrection of the Skymart as a social and commercial hub. A newly accessible ramp has been built up to the walkway, and it has been made a key element in a greenway master plan for the region. In an effort to renew public interest, city officials, the Downtown Morristown Association and the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce hold events in the city’s downtown or the “Skymart District” throughout the year, mainly during the warmer months of May to September.
Looking to the future
Crossroads Downtown Partnership was formed to propel the future vision of Main Street. CDP goes through an annual recertification process. Based on what we have done, what we plan to accomplish, and how we have gone about it, we are rectified by the Tennessee Dept. of Economic and Community Development and by the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information about Tennessee Main Street Program visit http://www.tennesseemainstreet.org/
All certified Main Street Programs operate on the 4-point approach of Economic Revitalization, Organization, Design and Promotions and use these four points to incrementally accomplish overall goals. This comprehensive strategy helps us leverage the many assets Morristown already has including historic, cultural and architectural resources to local enterprises and community pride. These assets help downtown compete for businesses, jobs, tourists, and customers.