published Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Ducktown, Etowah among six communities named to Tennessee Downtowns program

Etowah is among six communities in Tennessee chosen for a downtown revitalization program.
Etowah is among six communities in Tennessee chosen for a downtown revitalization program.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Etowah and Ducktown in Southeast Tennessee were among the six Volunteer State towns named Thursday to the most recent listing of communities named to the Tennessee Downtowns revitalization program.

In McMinn County’s Etowah, a stretch of the main drag in front of the historic Etowah Depot on Tennessee Avenue is targeted for improvements, according to city manager Matthew Gravley.

Being among the six cities “was a real boost for our team. We’ve had the same team together for the past two years,” Gravley said. “We’ve been doing projects that entire time.”

The training that comes with the designation allows city officials and program participants “to do more and target more growth in the downtown area,” he said. “If folks will get involved, it will work.”

For Ducktown in Polk County, the program will help invigorate a downtown area killed by a small bypass built in the 1980s that diverted traffic and, eventually, businesses away from Main Street, according to Mayor James Talley.

Talley said Ducktown’s center once had a drug store, doctors’ offices, a bank, barber, department stores and a supermarket to draw people downtown.

“We’ve got a true, old-style Main Street,” he said. A grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation already in hand is helping with some streetscaping that includes street light and crosswalk work.

Also named this year to the program were Arlington in Shelby County, Carthage in Smith County, Jamestown in Fentress County and Shelbyville in Bedford County.

“These six communities new to the Tennessee Downtowns program are looking to the future of their historic downtowns, and we look forward to working with them on their revitalization efforts,” Tennessee Main Street Director Nancy Williams said in a release on the 2014 selections.

The tiered program affiliated with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Main Street Program selects communities each year to participate and form volunteer committees who go through a two-year training curriculum to learn about revitalizing downtowns. Training comes with a $15,000 reimbursable grant for individualized projects.

To seek the designation, communities must be home to a downtown commercial district established at least 50 years ago and demonstrate readiness to organize revitalization efforts. Selection for the program is based on five core criteria: historic resources, need, demonstrated local effort, overall presentation and probability of success.

TECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said the program “offers valuable tools to support downtown revitalization and historic preservation. Strong downtowns create overall economic strength in our state, both encouraging investment from within and attracting fresh commitments to Tennessee.”

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

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 ...

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