Three area downtowns each getting $150,000 state grants

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Numerous downtown Elizabethton business owners want to preserve their historic buildings’ style and integrity, Elizabethton Main Street Director Courtney Bean said.

Some of them should get help with that thanks to a $150,000 Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) “Downtown Improvement Grant” announced Thursday. The cities of Rogersville and Greeneville also will receive $150,000 grants as part of $1.85 million total for 14 communities that is coming from Rural Economic Opportunity funds.

“These leaders are focusing strategic investments on revitalizing their downtown districts, which are the heart of so many of our communities,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in an ECD news release. “This will encourage additional economic development and tourism opportunities for years to come.”

Applicants had to be members of the Main Street or Tennessee Downtowns programs to qualify. Recipients can use them for a wider array of revitalization projects than the previous grant program, which focused on building facades.

Bean said Elizabethton, which just became a Main Street community a couple of years ago, solicited input from business owners prior to submitting its applications. Those owners shared some of the projects they’re interested in pursuing, though Elizabethton will conduct a competitive application project once the ECD grant contract is in place.

“Having this opportunity, especially as a new program, is really exciting to help elevate our downtown district,” Bean said.

“It’s about preserving our history. A lot of our building owners want to bring their building back to its original glory and this is a great opportunity for that.”

Bean will work with city planner Logan Engle on the application process, and the city will share notice of the program with property owners. In addition to facades, numerous other improvements are eligible, from windows and signage to infrastructure such as gutters.

The grants will require a 25% match from property owners, so if all $150,000 is disbursed, at least $200,000 in total improvements will result.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our downtown and our community and we’re appreciative to the state,” Bean said.

Main Street Elizabethton’s president, Mark Stevans, had similar positive comments about that city’s being a recipient.

“This grant award confirms what we know about Greeneville, that the Town, property owners, and stakeholders are dedicated to downtown redevelopment, and I am glad that others recognize it too,” Stevens said in a news release. “I can’t wait to see what property owners do to leverage these funds in our historic downtown.”

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