Staff File Photo by Tim Barber New streetscaping along Pikeville's Main Street includes trees, plantings and decorative lampposts, paid for in part by a USDA grant.
Pikeville Mayor Greg Johnson says participating in the “Tennessee Downtowns” program will help the Bledsoe County seat sustain its small-town charm and economic viability.
The effort starts with a group of local citizens, Johnson said.
“We’ll pick a board of five volunteers to receive training,” he said.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development officials will conduct the training during a visit to Pikeville early next year, he said.
State officials “will spend half a day here in February and walk the streets with the board members,” Johnson said.
After that, members will train monthly and receive grant funding to help launch sustainable ideas for Pikeville’s historic downtown, he said.
“We’ve looked at a small downtown walk-in theater, we’ve looked at several shops, and we’ll look at anything that will spur economic development downtown,” he said.
The Tennessee Downtowns program aims to build sustainable commercial districts in small, older towns, according to Tennessee Economic and Community Development officials.
In a news release, ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber said the program “is the first step toward reviving a community’s central business district in a comprehensive, sustainable way.”
Pikeville is one of 12 Tennessee communities chosen for the program. All the cities’ downtown business districts are at least 50 years old, and each is ready to work with the state’s four-point approach to downtown revitalization, state officials said.
The other cities are McKenzie, Henderson, Athens, Linden, Red Boiling Springs, Smithville, Centerville, Brownsville, Lewisburg, Mountain City and Rockwood.
Pikeville recently has revitalized its downtown streets and sidewalks with park benches and a town clock, decorative trash receptacles and street lamps. Parking was redesigned and trees and landscaping added along Main Street.
Bledsoe County native Jarrod Thurman expects to be a member of the citizen panel. He said he’s looking forward to the training and to gathering ideas from the community.
“More than anything, I’d like to learn how to make a town healthy,” said Thurman, a 23-year-old apartment manager.
“I want the people who live here to absolutely love it and love to live here,” he said. “The only way that people are going to accept it, love it and be proud of it is if they have a part in making it happen.”
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...