This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Historic Railroad Town: The Planning and Revitalization Process of Downtown Opelika




Coan, Mackenzie

Type of Degree



Geology and Geography


Downtown Opelika, Alabama has recently marketed themselves as a, “Historic Railroad Town.” My research focuses on the process that Opelika has begun in effort to rebuild the downtown’s economy. The city of Opelika has partnered with several planning organizations in addition to the nationally recognized Main Street Program with the goal to revitalize downtown Opelika, to rebuilding a sense of place and community based upon the history of the city. My research is strongly influenced by the ideas of New Urbanism and Cultural geography. I explore from urban sprawl, and decentralization; revitalization; community; historical preservation collective memory; and historical authenticity. I argue that Opelika has turned their city’s past into a commodity by creating a historic image in effort to market themselves to the community, new businesses and restaurants. Qualitative research approaches allowed me to stay flexible in my research here. In effort to understand Opelika’s revitalization process; I collected my data through interviews with members of the community, businesses and public figures. In addition, I attended downtown social events and became an active member of the downtown community.