As we reported Monday, last week, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced 12 Tennessee communities selected to participate in the sixth round of the Tennessee Downtowns program. Among the communities selected is Clinton.
Since 2010, 58 Tennessee communities have participated in the program to assist local officials and volunteers seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts. Tennessee Downtowns communities work through groups of local citizens who participate in a two-year program supported by the National Main Street Center. They also receive a $15,000 grant to complete a downtown improvement project.
Janet Hawkins, the Executive Vice President of the Anderson County Chamber, spearheaded the effort to obtain the designation and explained a little more about the program.
“The Tennessee Downtowns is a program that the Chamber set up a steering committee to apply for the Tennessee Downtowns program. It is a two-year program, where the first year is training for how to work the Tennessee Downtowns program through the state and then the second year includes grants which are for facade upgrades, et cetera, for downtown.”
The focus of the grant money will be, as Hawkins said, on the improvement of building facades in Clinton’s Historic Downtown District.
“[The money] is for facade upgrades at the front of buildings, or it could possibly be used for, like, on Commerce Street, where you have the back of buildings, or Freddy Fagan Way, where you have the back of buildings. It could be used to upgrade that because those could be used as entrances.”
This latest round of designations from the state also included Newport in Cocke County.
Hawkins says that business owners in the downtown area, many of whom served on the steering committee, are “very excited.”
The newly selected communities have downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago and have demonstrated their readiness to organize efforts for downtown revitalization based on the successful “Main Street Four-Point Approach to Downtown Revitalization.” The highly competitive selection process was based on historic commercial resources, economic and physical need, demonstrated local effort, overall presentation and probability of success.
Hawkins admits that officials weren’t sure they would receive the designation as 36 other communities were in the running.
Officials believe that this designation will go along nicely with the upcoming replacement of the Lewallen Bridge spanning the Clinch River and the ongoing effort to spark development in downtown Clinton, including at the Magnet Mills site.