By Shane Barton, CEDIK Downtown Revitalization Coordinator
Five communities in eastern Kentucky are receiving mini-grants to invest in their downtown revitalization strategies as part of the work of the Promise Zone Downtown Revitalization POWER grant awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The lead entity, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) awarded the mini-grants after collecting applications from Promise Zone downtowns involved in the project. Each of the 12 downtowns participating in this project have access to funds earmarked for the implementation of locally determined priority projects.
Harlan, Hazard, Middlesboro, Tri Cities and Whitesburg applied for and received their first installments of funds to stimulate their respective downtown revitalization strategies. Each project incorporates new and exciting ways to engage additional local stakeholders in their efforts. Eligibility for these mini-grants depends on each participating community organizing a formalized downtown stakeholder team to support locally implemented projects and efforts. All mini-grant recipients have committed to providing a 20% local match and to completing their projects within 9 months.
CEDIK, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) and the Department of Landscape Architecture, in partnership with the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky and the Kentucky Main Street Program, have been supporting each of the 12 participating downtowns over the previous year as they have developed priorities to support their own comprehensive revitalization efforts. Sandi Curd, Promise Zone Coordinator for Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and member of the grant review panel shared, “Our downtowns are the heart of our communities and culture. I am so proud of the creative work and citizen engagement these communities have put forth for celebrating what makes their city unique, vibrant and wonderful.”
Harlan County’s Chamber of Commerce is receiving funds to implement and organize a “Mountain Women Mean Business” conference highlighting women led businesses in downtown Harlan while also connecting and supporting women business leaders locally and across the region.
Hazard, Kentucky’s InVision Hazard organization is receiving funds to support the costs associated with hosting an Appalachian Transition Fellow. The Fellowship is designed to increase the community’s capacity to strategically shape the physical and social character of downtown Hazard by amplifying efforts around arts, culture and creative placemaking.
Middlesboro, Kentucky’s Main Street program, in partnership with Bell County Tourism, is receiving funds to support the costs associated with the purchase and installation of community centric message boards to be installed in high traffic areas downtown. This effort will provide a centralized location to share information about upcoming events and sites of interest for residents and visitors.
The Tri Cities Heritage Development Corporation is receiving funds to support the creation of evening markets aimed at increasing foot traffic, sales and the activation of underutilized spaces. Their grant will also be used to create aesthetic enhancements creating a consistent visual theme throughout the three communities of Benham, Lynch and Cumberland.
Whitesburg, Kentucky is receiving funds to support walkability and wayfinding as they work to increase walkability, access to business and civic amenities for residents and visitors. The project will contribute to creating an environment that supports and facilitates improved health outcomes via increased activity and exercise.
This regional Downtown Revitalization Project is coordinated by CEDIK staff member Shane Barton who works one-on-one with the communities to support the development of specific plans, and serves as a connector to available support offered through CEDIK and its partners in this effort. For more information about the CEDIK Promise Downtown Revitalization Project, contact Shane Barton at Shane.Barton@uky.edu