Hatched from a convergence of factors one year ago as well as determination and vision, the Hope Downtown Network has survived — and even accomplished much — in its first year of existence, and on Wednesday, it saw a promising start to its second year with a sizable donation from local attorney Blake Montgomery.

Hatched from a convergence of factors one year ago as well as determination and vision, the Hope Downtown Network has survived — and even accomplished much — in its first year of existence, and on Wednesday, it saw a promising start to its second year with a sizable donation from local attorney Blake Montgomery.
"The Hope Downtown Network could not have survived this first year without the dedication, participation and help of its members. Blake stepped up from the beginning, helping us form a 501-C3 non-profit organization, donating his time and legal expertise to do the paperwork,” Erwin said.
“Blake continually challenges us in our meetings, he brings a lot to the table as far as his vision of a viable downtown. He could have gone any where after graduation from law school, but he chose to come home to Hope. We are extremely lucky that a young man of his intellect and talent has chosen to make his career in Hope and that he dedicates his free time to making Hope a better place for all,” he said.
If Montgomery has been a catalyst for action, Erwin has been the group’s visionary and godfather. The development of the Hope Downtown Network came on the heels of Erwin’s downtown initiative Trade Days, which debuted four months before the first network meeting in February 2017.
Meeting at downtown restaurant, Tailgaters, for the first time, Erwin corralled and calmed a diverse group of over 40 concerned downtown merchants and citizens, many of whom days before had attended a 90-minute raucous Hope City Board meeting demanding action on downtown issues.
“There wasn’t anything being done in downtown, and something needed to be done. There was a need, and it was the right time for an organization like this to come together. A lot has been accomplished, and we’ve come too far not to have good things continue to happen,” Erwin said.
Over its first year, the Hope Downtown Network sponsored a downtown clean-up day, hosted a "Summer in the City” event with a fish fry, movie and Baggo tournament and purchased and installed six red trash receptacles downtown and ten benches.
Erwin also said “The City of Hope replaced the globes and lights, and all of the 52 historic downtown light poles were painted by the Network and many volunteers. It was a good example of a collaborative effort, which helped everyone.”
In recent months, the Hope Downtown Network has continued to see regular attendance of 25 or more persons at its meetings, and Erwin said “It shows people still care, and we know we still have work to do.”
One of the goals in the groups second year is to become part of the Arkansas Downtown Network program, an offshoot of the Downtown Main Street program. Erwin said the network is working with the Hope Chamber of Commerce towards that goal.
Erwin said the appearance of some of the downtown buildings still need improvement as well.
“The overall appearance of downtown, some of the older buildings, still need to be addressed. We have buildings that are out of repair, need fresh paint, and need attention.  We want visitors to downtown to see something special and see a place that they would like to stay, and spend money,” he said.
In addition to Montgomery, Erwin also credited the Network’s early successes to folks like Sharon Caldwell, whose Tailgater’s Annex has hosted many of the Downtown Network’s meetings, Warren Hanson, and Teena Pilkinton Carter, who owns interest in much of the property in downtown Hope.
“There have been so many good people involved; it is hard just to name a few. I do believe Teena’s heart is in the right place, and she has been tremendously supportive of our efforts,” Erwin said.
"We are excited about the small changes that we have been able to make downtown and look forward to moving forward,“ he said.
The Hope Downtown Network continues to meet monthly, usually the 3rd Thursday of the month at Tailgaters Annex on Main Street at 6 p.m.