Gap among 10 communities to get revitalization grant

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

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The historic town of Cumberland Gap is getting a second grant to assist in revamping its downtown district. The municipality was recently notified of its successful application for funds to create a Commons. This go-round, $15,000 in revitalization funds were applied for and secured by the Guardians of the Gap.

Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the TN Dept. of Economic & Community Development, has announced the ten communities that will be participating in the 8th round of the Tennessee Downtowns Program.

Those communities are Alexandria, Copperhill, Cumberland Gap, Decherd, Loretto, Newbern, Oneida, Rossville, Tellico Plains and Waverly.

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“Strengthening rural Tennessee remains a top priority for TNECD as we continue to ensure that our communities are equipped with the tools needed to develop strategies and revitalize our historic downtowns,” said Rolfe. “The Tennessee Downtowns program is an essential part of our rural development strategy, and we look forward to working with these ten new communities as they establish sustainable renewal efforts in their commercial districts.”

The TN Dept. of Economic & Community Development has designated moneys from the Tennessee Downtowns Program to communities that want to pursue the Main Street America approach to downtown revitalization. Sixty-six communities have participated in the program since its inception in 2010. The newly designated communities bring that total to 76.

The Program helps local communities revitalize traditional commercial districts, enhance community livability and spur job creation while maintaining the historic character of downtown districts. The two-year program coaches selected communities and their steering committees through the steps of launching effective renewal efforts. The Tennessee Downtowns Program includes community training in the Main Street America Program while providing $15,000 in grant funds for a downtown improvement project.

“We are proud to welcome ten new communities into the Tennessee Downtowns Program and look forward to helping these towns create and meet their goals for downtown revitalization,” said Nancy Williams, director of the Main Street Program.

All ten communities have downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago and have demonstrated their readiness to organize efforts for downtown revitalization according to Main Street America principles. 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 Downtown communities that complete the program are eligible for additional Downtown Improvement Grants as well as eligibility forMain Street designation. There are currently 41 nationally accredited Main Street communities in Tennessee, ten of which successfully completed the Tennessee Downtowns program prior to their national accreditation.

Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.
The TN Dept. of Economic & Community Development mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth.

Tennessee Downtowns is an affiliated program of Tennessee Main Street designed to help communities embark on a comprehensive revitalization effort for their downtown.

Using the proven National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach® to downtown revitalization, this 24-month program coaches selected downtowns and their steering committees through the steps of launching an effective revitalization effort.

Space in this program is limited and highly competitive. Program activities include training, site visits, regional workshops, webinars, technical assistance and an innovation project grant.

To participate in Tennessee Downtowns, communities must:

  • Define a project area concentrating efforts on a traditional commercial district that is typically at least 50 years old.
  • Have a designated five-member volunteer steering committee dedicated to going through the training and program process.
  • Have a designated non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or city municipality that will host the steering committee for the program and associated grant project.
  • Illustrate interest on the behalf of the citizens for the revitalization of downtown.
  • Illustrate how the city and county government recognizes the importance of downtown as an asset to the community.
  • Adopt a resolution by the city government to participate in the program.
  • Clearly demonstrate economic need for a downtown revitalization effort through economic factors such as high vacancy rates in downtown, lack of businesses downtown, disinvestment in the area (either public or private), dilapidated buildings or aging infrastructure.
  • Submit a complete application to participate in an upcoming “round” (please contact us for the timeline).
  • Join the National Main Street Center as a “Standard member”.

Forty-six communities have participated in the Tennessee Downtowns program, which makes them eligible for ECD’s Façade Improvement Grant program.

Applications for Tennessee Downtowns are accepted every two years.