Steps taken for downtown revitalization

Friday, July 8, 2011

State, national and local leaders of preservation groups are gathering on Lewisburg's public square today to assess the needs toward designation of Lewisburg as a Main Street USA city to open doors for expert advice on downtown revitalization.

"We are part of Tennessee Downtowns, a state group, which is a stepping stone to qualify for a Main Street designation under a national program," according to Ken Todd, spokesman for the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance, a non-profit organization taking steps to revitalize the town's economy.

Main Street USA is a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Headquartered near DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., it provides resources and information on how to preserve and revitalize historic downtowns and main streets.

"We've been at this for four years in August," Todd said Thursday. "While it doesn't look like we've done much, the reality is, we have accomplished a lot to plot a course of action."

The Main Street program focuses on principles of design and practical usage of buildings with advocacy for traditional uses for multi-story building in towns like Lewisburg where merchants lived above their street-level stores. That concept includes residents who would be customers of each other's businesses, thereby building an economic system.

Having an organization with people who will implement the principles of revitalization is the unseen part of the process.

"It's a difficult process," Todd said, "but we have a dedicated group in the LDA."

That's led to the visit starting at his media studio, Too Squared, at 105 1st Ave. North, at 9 a.m.

"We'll walk around the square and may step into the businesses around the square," Todd said.

The LDA Strategic planning group includes, Todd, the Rev. Leland Carden who's president of the LDA, Mayor Barbara Woods, Economic and Community Development Director Greg Lowe and ECD assistant Lisa Jackson, City Codes Officer Buck Beard, County Buildings and Codes Officer Don Nelson, Executive Director Mike Wiles of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, John Jackson of LES, Linda Mulliniks, Brianne Huitt, property developers Ron and Rita Maggi, and Rick Tillis of Tillis Jewelry and Edmund Roberts who's the chairman of the city's Community Development Committee.

Visitors will apparently include: Kimberly Franklin Nyberg, director of the Tennessee Main Street Program, a representative from the national Main Street group, a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Office in South Central Tennessee, and the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro.

Carden has "worked for weeks" to get the LDA to this point so Lewisburg may be considered as a Main Street USA city," Todd said.

"The whole idea is to focus on the downtown commercial district," Todd said. "It's about the square, immediately, because that's what's going to draw public interest."

Town squares are seen as an indication of a community's spirit and pride in itself, Carden and others who've been involved with downtown revitalization have explained. As a result, the appearance of a city influences business decisions. Revitalization is a part of economic development.

Todd foresees a time when the LDA's focus will broaden: "The group wants to include businesses on the bypass as well some day."