Fort Pierce named
No. 1 Main Street city
People gather for a fireworks display in Marina Square in downtown Fort Pierce, named by Top Value Reviews as the No. 1 Best Small Town Main Street in America. MAIN STREET FORT PIERCE PHOTO
Ranking expected to bring more tourists to area
BY GREG GARDNER
Fort Pierce’s downtown Main Street has been named No. 1 on a consumer-advocacy group’s list of “50 Best Small Town Main Streets” in America.
The honor was given by Top Value Reviews, which ranked Fort Pierce top among cities with a population of 60,000. Fort Pierce was one of only two Florida cities named on the list and it beat out notable quaint small towns such as Nantucket, Mass., and Steamboat Springs, Colo. “It was a surprise to us and what an honor to be chosen over 2,000 other Main Street programs across the country,” says Doris Tillman, who has been executive director of Main Street Fort Pierce Inc. for the past 24 years. “It is not about the people who run Main Street. It is about all the people who have so much belief in bettering ourselves. It is the community and the city and the people always ready to support and help you.”
The Farmers Market, Sunrise Theatre, art galleries and restaurants are all point scorers used by Top Value Reviews, which also rates, appliances, cameras, cars, clothing, musical instruments, toys, tools and martial arts among other consumer products. Also scoring points for the city were seven National Register of Historic Places locations downtown or nearby including the Sunrise Theatre, Moore’s Creek Bridge and the site Fort Pierce is named for, the original Army post during the Seminole War.
“We think Fort Pierce is on the verge of being discovered,” Mayor Linda Hudson says. “With our downtown, the beaches and the fishing, you can see why we are No. 1. We still have that small-town feel.”
Greg Rosslow is the latest generation to operate the family’s ladies apparel store Rosslow’s, located downtown since 1950. A founding board member of Fort Pierce Main Street, Rosslow says Main Street Fort Pierce “has been a big catalyst for all the positive things that have happened. There was not a lot of local support when we started.”
Rosslow says the impact of the Farmers Market, one of the largest in the state, has been huge. “We have 4 to 5,000 people here on a Saturday and that has helped downtown businesses,” he says. “This is positive press and it will get people to take a second look at Fort Pierce. It helps drive developers, businesses and people to Fort Pierce. It garners interest in our community. Everyone wants to be a part of what is happening downtown.”
Tillman also points to several projects that will add to the success of downtown. There is a $1.25 million renovation under way at the A. E. Backus Museum & Gallery. Fort Pierce City Marina is finally at capacity after years of reconstruction following the 2004-5 hurricanes. The city has dedicated its new fishing pier south of the marina on Melody Lane.
In addition, the old PNC Bank building at Orange Avenue and Second Street is being converted into Galleria of Pierce Harbor, a mix of three restaurants, a barbershop, an art gallery, 10 stores and office space. Veterans Memorial Park on the riverfront is undergoing a make over to be completed at the end of the year. A six-acre plot where the H.D. King power plant once stood is being considered for a mixed-use hotel and commercial project.
All of this redevelopment will help drive the downtown economy, says Hoyt C. “Pat” Murphy Jr., a broker with Coldwell Banker Hoyt Murphy Realtors whose office is a short walk from downtown.
“Having Fort Pierce ranked as the No. 1 of the 50 Best Small Town Main Streets in America is incredible,” Murphy says. “Main Street Fort Pierce has played a huge part in the revitalization of downtown Fort Pierce. It has helped businesses to flourish, attracted people to live downtown. All of this creates a much improved tax base and improved economic conditions for all of Fort Pierce. I am not surprised since we have one of the top farmers markets in the U.S., the amazing Sunrise Theatre and so much more along the beautiful Indian River.”
In its summary of Fort Pierce, Top Value Reviews mentions the Farmers Market, Friday Fest, Taste of the Sea and Sandy Shoes Festival, and the Sights and Sounds Christmas Festival and parade. “Better yet, hop on a boat tour of the Indian River Lagoon and swampland and spot dolphins, manatees, any number of bird species, turtles and flora.’’
Some officials hope the ranking and publicity bring more visitors to the area.
“Any national recognition creates more interest in our area,” says St. Lucie County tourism manager Charlotte Birely. “We hope people will request information and then visit our area to see how special it is and why we are deserving of this.’’