Supporters of Madison’s America’s Best Communities project gathered Wednesday night at the Red Bicycle Hall to see if Madison would be one of three communities to win prize money in the nationwide competition.  (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
Supporters of Madison’s America’s Best Communities project gathered Wednesday night at the Red Bicycle Hall to see if Madison would be one of three communities to win prize money in the nationwide competition. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
The final America’s Best Communities announcement didn’t end the way Madison residents had hoped, but the competition finale doesn’t mean the end of the road for the community revitalization project.

Instead, team members say the competition served as a way to rally the community together and identify partnerships to move forward. The One Madison connector and Mulberry Street revitalization just might take a little longer without the help of the grand prize money.

Madison didn’t receive one of the top three prizes awarded Wednesday afternoon in Denver, Colo. Huntington, W. Va, won the grand prize of $3 million. Lake Havasu City, Ariz., received the $2 million prize, and Statesboro, Ga., took the $1 million prize.

Valecia Crisafulli, ENVISION Jefferson County coordinator and ABC team member, said the team was disappointed following the announcement, but members look forward to building on the previous success.

“It’s been such a positive experience,” she said. “I think we’re all committed to see this through.”

Andrew Forrester, Madison’s community relations director and ABC team member, said the team will be bringing lots of ideas back to Madison after meeting with the other seven finalist communities and listening to a roundtable event about the importance of rural America and the impact of the competition.

The timeline on the community revitalization plan may be extended after being fast tracked during the last few years, but Crisafulli said the team hopes to utilize partnerships developed during the competition while moving forward.

Still, team members are pleased with the work that was completed in the last 11 months of the competition. Some of that work continues although the competition’s submission was due a little less than month ago.

“While we are disappointed in the ultimate outcome, we walk away proud of what we accomplished in the competition the last two years,” Mayor Damon Welch said.

“We have shown we’re one of America’s Best Communities, and we’re so grateful to every community member and organization who played a part in our projects; we never would have gotten here without you. ” Welch said.

The Mulberry Street facade project – which has been funded in part by a state Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant, ABC prize winnings, the city and property owners – will continue throughout the year. Eleven properties are expected to receive some type of facade work through the program.

State funding for trails could help to move the project forward bit by bit, Forrester said, and signage can be completed locally without much outside funding. 

Larger projects like trailheads and restrooms along the trail will most likely take more time than it would have with one of the top three prizes.

Yet none of the work already completed during the three-year competition could have happened without the support of community residents and volunteers.

Forrester said the Madison team received several messages of support throughout the day. Facebook Live videos of the viewing parties held in Madison Wednesday afternoon also provided support to the team even though they were more than 1,100 miles away.

“Our team was so honored and encouraged,” Forrester said. “The community was really behind us.”

It was the community’s enthusiasm and support that continues to stand out to team members at the end of the multi-year journey in the competition.

“It wouldn’t have happened without the people, partnerships and volunteers,” Crisafulli said.