Ducktown's fate is a common one: a highway bypass sucks all the life and businesses from the old downtown circuit. James Talley, mayor of the small Polk County town, hopes a $256,791 grant will help reverse that.
"When you take all the traffic out of the downtown area, it's hard for businesses to survive," Talley said Thursday evening.
Ducktown was presented an 80/20 matching grant by the Tennessee Department of Transportation Thursday to help combat the withering of its historic downtown area.
The grant will go toward replacing sidewalks and street lighting in the town's historic downtown area, as well as adding crosswalks and landscaping at the intersection of State Road 68 and Main Street, according to TDOT. The project is part one of a two-part enhancement project in Ducktown's downtown district.
"Tennessee's downtowns are the heart of our communities, and projects such as this help strengthen the livability of our communities and the quality of life for residents," Haslam said in a news release.
The grant comes from TDOT's Transportation Alternatives Funding program, which seeks to "revitalize downtowns, highlight historic areas, provide alternative means of transportation and increase opportunities for economic development," department Commissioner John Schroer said in the release.
TDOT communications director B.J. Doughty called the grant application process "competitive" and said funding for the program is limited.
"The projects are selected based on a number of criteria," she said. "TDOT also tries to balance grant awards throughout the state, in urban and rural areas, and pays close attention to counties or cities who have never had an enhancement grant before." She added that funds for the grant come from the federal government but are funneled through TDOT.
The city will be responsible for $64,197 of the project, but Talley said the town has to pony up and take initiative in the fight for old Ducktown.
"It's kind of like the chicken or the egg," he said, comparing fixing up the town to waiting for businesses to move back in. "If we wait on them, they may never show up."
Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6731.