Lenoir City, Wartburg and Crossville are the three East Tennessee cities to win grants from the state Department of Economic and Community Development under the Tennessee Downtowns program, the department said Friday.
The program provides money to help in downtown revitalization in small towns that have seen deterioration in their central business districts, and are working to bring them back to life. This is the fifth round of the program, which has already provided money to 34 other communities.
"Tennesseans are passionate about their communities, and because of the overwhelming support from our General Assembly through the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, we are able to provide funding to twice as many communities this round," TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd said. "We applaud these communities for making efforts to revitalize their downtown commercial districts."
In Lenoir City, the $15,000 Tennessee Downtowns grant will go to help merchants with their marketing efforts as the city winds up a separate $500,000 downtown streetscape project that has been underway about three years, said City Administrator Amber Scott.
"Our streetscape project, which uses state and federal money, should be finished by September," Scott said. "We're getting stamped concrete at intersections to look like brick, and also going underground with our electric utilities. We're also going to have a landscaping element."
The new money will help downtown merchants with marketing efforts, including new signage, Scott said. Among the newer downtown businesses, she said, are the Le Noir Bistro, Sparkly Pig and Backdoor Gallery.
"We're trying to build the retail base back up, and breathe new life into our downtown," she said. "Our downtown merchants association met in January for the first time since 1997. We have a lot of exciting things going on in our downtown, and this will help push it forward."
Other Tennessee communities selected to participate in the fifth round of the program are Ashland City, Dickson, Gainesboro, Hohenwald, Humboldt, Livingston, Lynchburg, Manchester and Woodbury.
The state said in a release that the 12 cities selected for this round of funding "have downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago and have demonstrated their readiness to organize efforts for downtown revitalization. The highly competitive selection process was based on historic commercial resources, economic and physical need, demonstrated local effort, overall presentation and probability of success."
Tennessee Downtowns is an affiliated program of Tennessee Main Street, and is described as a community improvement program for towns and cities seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts. The communities work through volunteer committees in a two-year program supported by the National Main Street Center.