Renee Hernandez wasn’t born in North Bryan, but she was raised here.
Hernandez, recently named director of the Pembroke Downtown Development Authority, moved to North Bryan when she was 4, and “was fortunate to attend K-12 in the close-knit North Bryan schools,” she said.
Those days fostered what she called a strong sense of community and initially led her to dream of working as a teacher in North Bryan. But life had other plans.
“During my second year at Armstrong Atlantic State University, I began working as a leasing consultant in multi-family housing,” she said. “Before I knew it, I was managing multi-million dollar housing developments in Chatham County. From then on, my education centered around business management, marketing and state housing regulations.”
Hernandez believes the training she’s had in areas such as marketing and community engagement translates into downtown development and will help her in her role as director of both the DDA director and Pembroke’s Main Street Program.
As such, Hernandez is tasked with coordinating events and helping grow downtown business “while still maintaining historic preservation awareness,” she said. “In a nutshell, focusing on the live, work, play aspects of downtown while embracing the historic charm that is uniquely Pembroke.”
Ultimately, the idea is to help rejuvenate the city by “facilitate a flourishing downtown district where businesses seek out Pembroke locations and feel confident they will have the business necessary to sustain them,” Hernandez said, adding that means drawing attention to North Bryan.
“That means coordinating creative events that draw in locals and those from surrounding areas,” she said. “During these events it’s important to highlight the businesses that are already established and flourishing, to attract future investors.”
And though Hernandez grew up in North Bryan, she knows what it’s like to come back home in search of a dream. She and her husband, Rodolfo, lived in Savannah “for a few years,” before buying a home in Pembroke a few blocks from downtown.
Then, in 2017, “we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Emma Claire,” Hernandez said.
A dozen weeks into her pregnancy, she and her husband learned their daughter had Down Syndrome, and Emma Claire spent 40 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursey at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah.
They also learned something else.
“The outpouring of love and support we received from this community during that time was so overwhelming and humbling,” Hernandez said. “It was further proof that North Bryan is a great community in which to live.”