A better downtown: County seat among 12 in state program

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Among the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance members working toward revitalization of the public square are, from left, Ron Maggi, Rick Tillis, Barbara Woods and Rita Maggi, seen talking about Tennessee Downtowns and the national Main Street USA program.

As one of 12 communities in Tennessee Downtowns, a community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts, Lewisburg was visited Friday by program leaders as they work toward economic and community development in and around the public square here.

Revitalization of traditional small town public squares with economical improvements to appearances, linked with a reintroduction of traditional uses of buildings is recognized by preservationists as a tool for attracting new businesses and thereby improving the local community's financial status.

"The National Trust Main Street Center applauds Lewisburg for embracing the revitalization of its downtown commercial district," National Trust Main Street Center Officer Kathy LaPlante said. "We look forward to hearing many success stories here and across the state as a result of Tennessee Downtowns."

The other 11 towns selected for the Tennessee Downtowns program are McKenzie, Henderson, Athens, Linden, Red Boiling Springs, Smithville, Centerville, Brownsville, Mountain City, Rockwood and Pineville.

Those 11 and Lewisburg were among many other communities that submitted competitive applications last year. Now that they've been selected, Tennessee Downtowns is to help leaders here and there to "see if they want to be a part of Main Street USA," according to Shannon Sumrall, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Tennessee Downtowns "introduces participants to the concept and prepares them to enter that (Main Street) program.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation oversees the Main Street USA program. It provides professional advice and other assistance to locally based groups that work to revitalize public squares, Main Streets and urban settings for economic viability.

On Friday, LaPlante, Tennessee Main Street Program Director Kimberly Nyberg, and Bridgett Massengill, of Massengill Consultants, conducted an initial assessment visit in Lewisburg to launch the Tennessee Downtowns program.

LaPlante, Nyberg and Massengill met with leaders of the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance at Too Squared studios of Ken Todd on First Avenue North where strategies for development were discussed. The Rev. Leland Cardin is president of the LDA. Members of the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance's Strategic Planning Group assembled Friday, including Todd, Carden, Mayor Barbara Woods, private property developers Ron and Rita Maggi, and Rick Tillis of Tillis Jewelry.

The Tennessee Downtowns program is affiliated with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development's Tennessee Main Street Program. Communities selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns are home to downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago and have demonstrated their readiness to organize efforts for downtown revitalization based on the "Main Street Four-Point Approach to Downtown Revitalization."

Adherence to design principles and traditional uses of buildings - such as a retail store front on the ground level and a residence above - are among the practices endorsed for increasing commercial district and traditional town square populations and economic vitality.

"Tennessee Downtowns is a unique opportunity for Lewisburg to take the initial steps toward revitalizing its downtown business district," Nyberg said. "I would like to congratulate Lewisburg again on being selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns and look forward to working with you in the coming months."

Main Street revitalization is a comprehensive, incremental, self-help economic strategy that also focuses on developing public-private partnerships to enhance community livability and job creation, while maintaining the historic character of the district.

Tennessee's Main Street program provides communities with technical assistance and guidance in developing long-term strategies that promote economic growth and development. The program provides information and assistance in forging public networking and training opportunities for downtown commercial districts.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development's mission is to "develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth," TDE&CD states.