Downtown revitalization to continue thanks to grant

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

Middlesboro Main Street was awarded a grant from the Promise Zone Downtown Revitalization Grant in the total amount of $60,548. The grant is the result of an effort from the Bell County Downtown Coalition to continue the revitalization projects in the downtown communities.

The Bell County Downtown Coalition consists of Middlesboro Main Street, Bell County Tourism, Main Street Pineville and Bell County Chamber of Commerce.

“What this means for us is that Middlesboro, as well as Pineville, will be getting two murals, and we will be getting signage and banners to put on (U.S.) 25E,” Middlesboro Main Street Director Emily Ayers explained. “I have gotten messages from people asking for murals and more art in our downtown.”

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Ayers said that she is constantly being asked about bringing more art to the downtown community.

“Since I began my job a year ago, we have had a ton of requests for ways to integrate more arts and culture into our downtowns with murals being mentioned the most frequently,” she continued. “This has been something that we have really been working on.”

The grant will be awarded by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, on behalf of CEDIK (University of Kentucky – Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky).

The grant will be used for several different aesthetic and wayfinding improvements that aim to help draw people and businesses into our downtowns from U.S. 25E. It includes new wayfinding signage for Middlesboro, as well as banners on U.S. 25E and murals in both downtowns.

According to Middlesboro Main Street, the mural in downtown Middlesboro will be massive and will cover the entire side of the Tamer Building on Cumberland Avenue. This is the location of the old Sterchi’s Building and is currently where the banner for ragtime innovator Ben Harney is hanging.

The mural location in downtown Pineville will be on a building beside the parking lot adjacent to Taylors Pharmacy.

“One major factor in helping us obtain the grant was the fact that it was a coalition effort between Pineville and Middlesboro,” Bell County Tourism Director Jon Grace explained. “Both cities and main street organizations work together with tourism to produce a project that will benefit everyone and bring a major facelift to our downtowns.”

Community workshops will be conducted to let residents bring their ideas to the table about what should be included within each mural. At the community workshops, you will learn more about the grant and the scope of what the grant will cover. The dates for the workshops will be announced as soon as they are scheduled.

“We can’t wait to hear the ideas that the community brings forward at the workshops and then see those ideas come to life,” Ayers said.

“This grant will be a major breath of fresh air to our downtown. The addition of new wayfinding signage and banners on (U.S.) 25E will help inform passersby of all the great things in our downtown, and the gigantic new mural will be one that captures the imagination of our beautiful area.”

“We are ecstatic to receive our first grant as part of a team representing the downtowns in Bell County,” Main Street Pineville Director Jacob Roan said. “We know that we are stronger together than we are as separate entities.”

According to Roan, in the next month they will be working with an artist who will work with the workshop groups to begin the creative process.

“We are also excited to add banners to U.S. 25E to encourage people to visit our vibrant downtown community,” Roan said.

“It’ll be amazing to see the efforts we put into this grant come to fruition,” Grace concurred. “I want to thank CEDIK for helping us implement an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to revitalizing our downtowns.”

When the dates for the community workshops are scheduled, they will be released to the public.