By Shane Barton, Downtown Revitalization Coordinator
On Thursday, October 4th Promise Zone Downtown Revitalization partners and stakeholders came together for the Fall ‘18 convening hosted by CEDIK and local stakeholders in Hazard, Kentucky. The “Queen City of Mountains” proved to be a great location for the gathering of nearly 50 stakeholders. Hazard’s unique location nestled along the North Fork of the Kentucky River provided a wonderful backdrop for the day as attendees joined sessions inside Hazard’s City Hall and outside along the river. Following previous convenings in Harlan, Barbourville, and Pineville – the Fall ‘18 convening provided a space for downtown stakeholders to come together and share ideas, strategies, and information vital to revitalization efforts in the region. This convening not only included dedicated sessions to support ongoing work and community conversations but it also included a significant amount of time reserved to allow each community the chance to share updates on their recently awarded downtown mini grant funded small scale projects.
The day began at 10am as attendees chose between two concurrent sessions. The crowd separated as communities decided which stakeholders would represent their interest in each session. While some stayed inside City Hall for a session dedicated to community data, others joined Ryan Sandwick and Dr. Jayoung Koo on a radical walking tour. The walking tour guided attendees down Main Street past the parking garage and downtown pocket park, and culminated with a stroll behind the buildings on Main St. along the river, back to City Hall. As attendees reconvened after the first session, each participating downtown was given time to present on their recently funded mini grant projects. We heard passionate stories and detailed descriptions of how each community has approached their projects, who joined their efforts, the impacts they anticipate and how they plan to evaluate the impacts. Not only were these presentations informative but they proved to be motivational as communities discussed throughout the day how some of the projects they heard about could be implemented in their communities.
Like previous convenings, lunch was a hit. Local catering was provided by Hazard’s Big Blue Smokehouse and treated attendees to their popular pulled pork and banana pudding. Keeping within the tradition of hosting a lunch program Sandi Curd, Promise Zone Coordinator for Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, shared the story of the recently launched Upper Cumberland Community Foundation serving Whitley, Laurel, Knox, and Bell Counties and invited interested attendees to join the foundation’s efforts in the region.
After lunch attendees participated in an interactive session designed to create a regional itinerary covering multiple days that took their hypothetical guests throughout the Promise Zone. This exercise not only allowed stakeholder groups to acknowledge their favorite “must sees” in their communities, it forced each group to acknowledge high interest assets in neighboring communities. The itineraries created by each group would be worthy of a tour company’s investment and showed off the best of what the region has to offer. Each itinerary included stops at locally owned restaurants, art galleries, farmer’s markets, or local festivals while either beginning or ending at the Cumberland Gap National Park or Cumberland Falls State Resort.
The last session of the day was a panel featuring Hazard Downtown Stakeholders for a facilitated discussion on the history, process, and future of the development of the Arts Station at the vacant Greyhound Bus terminal in downtown Hazard. The emphasis of the panel was to convey that sometimes a better understanding of financial feasibility means we have to change course and adjust our plans. The panel focused their time conveying how the idea of the building restoration and their envisioned programming did not always correlate with their budget constraints and as result they have had to revisit and revise their original plans for the space.
Our next convening will take place after the New Year and is tentatively scheduled to take place in Williamsburg, Kentucky. More information will be available soon!