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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

D-B volleyball coach named TSSAA Coach of the Year

KINGSPORTDobyns-Bennett High School Volleyball Coach Kathi Shaffer was recently named the 2004-2005 State of Tennessee Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

 

Shaffer has been a volleyball coach for 22 years, serving the last three at Dobyns-Bennett High School, and 19 years as volleyball coach at Sullivan East High School. Shaffer has led 11 teams to the regional finals, 8 of which went to sub-state finals and five teams to state finals.  She has been selected as Conference and Upper East Tennessee Coach of the year four years, and she was selected as coach of the Tennessee East All Stars last year.  Shaffer’s teams have won 634 games over the 22 years. 

 

Shaffer has been recommended to the National Federation of High School Associations for consideration as The National Federation Coach of the Year. She will receive recognition from the Kingsport Board of Education on Thursday, December 1 at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Hall of the Dobyns-Bennett Field House.

 

For more information, contact Dobyns-Bennett High School Athletic Director Wes Moricle at (423) 378-8400. 

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What are your thoughts on Downtown Kingsport?

What are your thoughts on Downtown Kingsport?  We’d like to hear from you before December 15.  Shelburne Ferguson, chair of the Mayor’s Downtown Plan Committee, asked that I use this e-list to solicit input.  Please feel free to forward to your e-mail contacts, co-workers, etc.

 

Obviously, this is not a scientific survey.  We just want your input.  Feel free to express whatever you wish.  Below are some suggested questions to get you started.  Your response will be forwarded to the committee.  You don’t have to be a Kingsport resident to participate!

 

Your name (or do you prefer to remain anonymous?)

Your address/city/state (or do you prefer to remain anonymous?)

 

  • What are Downtown Kingsport’s strengths?
  • What are its weaknesses?
  • What’s missing?
  • What is threatening the future of downtown?
  • In your opinion, what is our greatest opportunity for downtown revitalization?
  • Other? (open-ended comments welcome)

 

Please indicate the one(s) that most appropriately identifies you:

  • Downtown property owner or business tenant
  • Employee of a downtown business
  • Downtown volunteer
  • Resident of the City of Kingsport
  • Not a city resident, but live elsewhere in the Kingsport area
  • Live elsewhere in Tri-Cities
  • Live outside the Tri-Cities area
  • Other?

 

Thanks!

Jeff

 

---Background clipping from Times-News (Sep 2005)---

KINGSPORT - A group of city leaders and downtown advocates met for the first time last week to discuss what Kingsport would like to see take place to revitalize downtown.

And their first order of business? To expand their group.

City leaders and many others in the Model City are energized in the redevelopment of downtown. The issue took center stage during the May city election where most, if not all, of the candidates expressed an interest in the redevelopment of downtown.

The issue came up again at the recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen retreat last month.

Mayor Dennis Phillips requested that three committees be formed to address the issue - two to look at funding possibilities and a third to determine what downtown Kingsport wants to look like.

This third committee, which includes representatives from the BMA, Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Kingsport Association and Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, met Wednesday afternoon.

At the request of Phillips, Kingsport attorney Shelburne Ferguson will chair this committee.

"We're not here to just brainstorm and come up with some good ideas," Ferguson said. "We need to broaden our group and be more inclusive."

Ferguson said people's perception of downtown needs to be changed, that while some believe downtown has dried up, others remember more exciting times, such as when Dobyns-Bennett held Friday afternoon parades downtown.

"There are several perceptions of downtown. We've got to get it the point of where are you going to think about to go and do your shopping, business and visit a physician's office. And where would you live?" Ferguson said. "(People) really need to come down and look at it. When you compare it to the other Tri-Cities and Elizabethton, Greeneville, Morristown, our downtown is thriving by comparison."

Ferguson cites unique shops opening up in downtown, several restaurants doing well, and other people becoming interested in coming to downtown.

"Things grow by excitement. The excitement in downtown Kingsport is coming back," Ferguson said.

During Wednesday's meeting, Ferguson went around the room and asked members to name a group of people that needs to be included with this third committee. Some of the groups mentioned were 20- to 40-years-olds, youth, business owners, churches, developers, educators, shoppers, minorities, medical, civic organizations and tourism.

Once the list was compiled and condensed, committee members then started suggesting names of people in the community who would best represent one or more groups.

Ferguson said a group of 35 people might be better attuned to represent the understanding of what Kingsport needs to be.

"I think what we're probably going to find is that all of these people are going to have a different perspective on a lot of things, but have the same goal - to see downtown Kingsport revitalized," Ferguson said. "My goal is for this to be inclusive and not exclusive. We need more input than less.

"It may take longer to get that input, but I think what we end up with is going to be far better than if we had a group of five people."

 

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lou Gehrig's Disease

This kind of heartfelt effort is what makes our region special.  As Naomi Judd recently said, “people here still care about each other” (paraphrased). --- Jeff

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Joy Eastridge [mailto:Joy@eastridges.com]
 

Jeff,

 

I have some good news for the community that you may want to pass on to your readers. 

 

A small group of volunteers has been working diligently over the past 3 years to help persons with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  We have hosted events at the baseball park, a walk at the Bristol Motor Speedway, and reached out to help form a statewide chapter of the ALS Association so as to better address the needs of those diagnosed.

 

Now, we are set to take a bold step: we are hiring a part time Patient Services Coordinator, a person who will visit those affected in their homes and help spread the word about the help we can offer to doctor’s offices and other social service agencies.  We are going from being simply a fund raising organization to actually providing a service to the community, one that stands to make a real difference in the lives of many.

 

We would invite anyone interested in this 20 hour a week position to check out the job description at www.alstn.org.  If there are further questions, I would be glad to help at  (423) 392-4373.

 

Kingsport is truly a town where people care about each other and are willing to step beyond the confines of their own lives to touch the lives of others in a positive way.  We are a serving community, and I’m proud to be a part of it. 

 

Sincerely,

Joy Eastridge

           

 

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Make plans to be in Downtown Kingsport on December 3rd...

Downtown Kingsport’s annual Christmas tree lighting will take place at 7:00 p.m. at Church Circle on Saturday, December 3.  Lt. Col. Franklin McCauley, commander of the 278th Regimental Combat Team’s Second Squadron will light this year’s tree. As a part of the Christmas Tree Lighting Program this year, a donation table will be accepting new stuffed animals to be donated to community organizations holding Christmas parties for children living in our area.

Merchants on and around Broad Street will help kick off the holiday season by holding an open house from 4:00-6:30 p.m.  Carriage Rides will be offered, a reception for the Gingerbread House Contest will be held in the AmSouth lobby, and the Appalachian Express Chorus will be performing A Cappella Music and hot chocolate will be served!

 

Submitted by CeeGee McCord ceegeemccord@kingsporthousing.org

 

 

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Check out the Kingsport Public Library's new website

Check out our new library website  at www.kingsportlibrary.org – thanks to the generosity of www.GoTriCities.com and the Friends of the Library. In the one week we’ve been up, we’ve already received over a dozen online applications for a library card, one book review and one volunteer for the teen advisory council.  I’m working closely with the school system to promote the homework help (live,online tutoring) and children’s encyclopedias.

 

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Helen

 

Helen Whittaker

Library Manager

Kingsport Public Library

400 Broad Street

Kingsport, TN  37660

(423)229-9488

hwhittaker@wrlibrary.org

 

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. John Nasbitt

 

 

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tenn realtors recognize Kingsport as emerging second home market

This was forwarded to me by a local realtor.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! -- Jeff

 

 

-----Original Message-----

Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:20 AM

 

Jeff,

 

This information was shared from the TN Realtors National Leadership or TARnet.  Isn’t it interesting that our area is on top of growth again as this point out?  Let’s keep things progressing in that direction. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

TN City Ranked as Emerging Second Home Market

 

       Kingsport, TN ranked THIRD NATIONALLY on a list of "emerging second home markets."

 

       *** BEGIN QUOTE ***

       More and more buyers of second homes are seeking out emerging markets, according to the San Francisco based real estate service EscapeHomes (www.escapehomes.com).  The company has found that many of today's second home buyers are looking for affordable areas with easy access to their favorite recreational activities that haven't yet been over-run with crowds.

 

       In response to this demand, the company [released its] list of Top 10 Emerging Second Home Markets based on input from customers and its REALTOR network:

 

       Big Lake, Alaska

       Brunswick, Maine

       KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE

       Lakeport, California

       Livingston, Montana

       Minden, Nevada

       Paonia, Colorado

       Talent, Oregon

       Vashon Island, Washington

       Venice, Florida

 

       *** END QUOTE ***

      

       [SOURCE: Escapehomes.com]

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Keep Kingsport Beautiful receives first place national affiliate award!

           Keep Kingsport Beautiful has been selected as a first place Affiliate Award winner by Keep America Beautiful for its outstanding efforts to engage individuals to improve their community environments. The award will be presented at Keep America Beautiful's 52nd National Conference on December 9, 2005.

 

          An independent panel of judges with representatives from public, private and government sectors chose Keep Kingsport Beautiful because of its success in achieving its mission to involve the community in responsible solutions for a cleaner and beautiful environment.

 

          "People of all ages and walks of life volunteer their time and talents to help with Keep Kingsport Beautiful programs," said Keep Kingsport Beautiful chair Stu Fisher. "Last year we coordinated 50 projects and events that addressed a variety of environmental objectives.  We're thrilled that the efforts of all our volunteers and sponsors are being recognized by our national organization."    

 

          Keep Kingsport Beautiful has created at least two programs (litter-free events by Trashbusters and Chipping of the Green - recycling of Christmas trees) that have been replicated by communities across the United States. Each year more than 300 people serve as Trashbusters, a program sponsored by American Electric Power. These volunteers wear bright yellow shirts and encourage citizens at public events to be responsible for their litter by patrolling, tying off full bags of litter and replacing bags in litter barrels. 

 

          Another Keep Kingsport Beautiful program, Chipping of the Green sponsored by Weyerhaeuser, has also received national recognition (1989 national recycling award). Last January in Kingsport over 6,000 Christmas trees were mulched and used by area residents, as well as the city for maintaining public lands.

 

          "We're proud of the value we're adding to our region," said Fisher.  "Our cost benefit analysis for 2004 shows that Keep Kingsport Beautiful returned $12.04 worth of benefits to the community for every $1 of support we received. This is a tremendous accomplishment for any organization."

 

          2005 marks the 25th anniversary of Keep Kingsport Beautiful, a partnership between the city of Kingsport and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about Keep Kingsport Beautiful, call 423-392-8814.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Attention Tennessee residents...

As “Black Friday” approaches (the busiest shopping day of the year), please remember to “be loyal, buy local first”.

 

Tennessee’s tax structure is “situs based”.  In other words, the “point of sale” determines the recipient of the sales tax revenue on a county-by-county basis.  It’s my understanding that the same rules don’t apply in Virginia or North Carolina (or most other states for that matter).

 

If you want to support your local schools, then you should inform yourself about the ramifications of your shopping choices.

 

For example, Bristol (TN), Kingsport and Sullivan County residents have a vested interest in supporting each other because a portion of the sales tax revenue goes to Bristol City Schools, Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools.

 

Yes, that’s right…if you make a purchase in Bristol (TN), a portion of the revenue goes to Kingsport City & Sullivan County Schools. 

 

If you make a purchase in Kingsport, a portion of the revenue goes to Bristol City & Sullivan County Schools.

 

If you make a purchase in Johnson City, the revenue goes to Johnson City Schools and Washington County Schools.

 

If you make a purchase in Bristol, VA or Asheville, NC, then the revenue leaves the state altogether, perhaps ultimately pressuring Tennessee lawmakers to consider other options to make-up the lost revenue (like the controversial income tax question).

 

If you make a purchase in Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, etc., then the revenue goes to support their schools.

 

If you make a purchase online, then you’re building a database of information that may result in a store locating locally – plus you’re probably paying state sales tax.

 

No one can isolate themselves from reality, but to the extent that you can make choices about where you shop, you should consider:

 

  1. Shopping locally first
  2. Shopping Tri-Cities second
  3. Shopping on the internet third
  4. Shopping elsewhere in Tennessee
  5. Shopping outside Tennessee

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 18, 2005

As the Santa Train departs...THANKS to Katrina

As the Santa Train departs today from Downtown Kingsport, this should put us all in the right frame of mind. As the United Way slogan says, “what matters. What does matter to you? -- Jeff


-----Original Message-----
From: Regina
Sent:
Monday, November 14, 2005 11:37 AM
Subject: Blessings

I hope this will remind us all what is truly important in life especially at this "commercialized time-Christmas" May you be blessed.

Regina

-----Original Message-----
Posted on: 10/20/2005 at 12:46pm

I am from New Orleans, holding down in Tampa until we figure things out. I lost more than some, but less than others. My days are long and it feels like years since I was in New Orleans, but hasn't even been two months. Through it all, I have encountered earth shattering love, acceptance and warmth. Not just from my family, but from complete strangers. We will make it, I don't just mean my family, but all of us. I have scene the Angels that walk through our daily lives that all too often go without notice. Here is my message:


THANKS TO KATRINA

I remembered to take things one day at a time,

To thank people,

There is a sunny day after the rain,

Stuff can be replaced,

Trust my instincts,

Never wait for tomorrow,

And it doesn’t matter where you go or how you get there,

Just believing you are where you are meant to be is enough.

I won’t forget to kiss my son and tell him I love him everyday, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, The hardest part is what might have been, I can’t control nature, I can only control myself, Angels are everywhere, Even the best plans won’t account for the unthinkable, The unknown is inevitable, And my faith is powerful and can fix everything… but will answer nothing.

I learned if I were blind and could not see the world around me, it might not hurt so much, because I would not see the devastation and it wouldn’t be so real,

Just believing is enough,

To teach my son how to go on if he lost me,

I am who I am no matter where I am,

My son can teach me things,

My family really is all I need,

And my home is in my heart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dude, it's finally open! Kingsport's new skatepark introduces 10,000 s.f. of Xtreme fun

Spread the word!  Please forward this email to skaters and BMX bikers throughout the region…it’s free and open to all regardless of residency. 

 

Located just west of downtown adjacent to the Kingsport Greenbelt Park.

 

For directions, enter “717 West Center Street, Kingsport, Tennessee” into Mapquest (or any similar mapping service).

 

For information, contact Kingsport Parks & Recreation 423.229.9457 or visit www.kingsportparksandrecreation.org

 

 

 

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kingsport listed as one of south's best downtowns by Southern Business & Development magazine

For more information contact on downtown redevelopment, contact CeeGee McCord, Kingsport Housing & Redevelopment Authority ceegeemccord@kingsporthousing.org or

Lisa Childress, Executive Director, Downtown Kingsport Association lchildress@downtownkingsport.org

 

***********************

 

Unless you live or work downtown, why should downtown redevelopment matter?

 

Because it’s like a CT scan of your community’s heart.  If your heart isn’t healthy, then the rest of your community isn’t healthy.  It may look fine on the outside, but a faltering downtown is symptomatic of future problems.

 

Recently when asked to indicate the most important thing an individual community can do to aid the Tri-Cities Economic Development Alliance, new CEO Andy Burke replied “take care of your downtown”.  The article below comes from Southern Business & Development, a site selection trade magazine for economic developers.

 

The Winners…

Major Markets: St. Pete, Richmond, Oklahoma City, Little Rock

Mid Markets:  Roanoke VA, Clarksville TN, Shreveport LA, Hattiesburg MS, Kingsport TN, Savannah GA, Lafayette LA, Chattanooga TN

Small Markets: Brunswick GA, Harrison AR, Ocean Springs MS, New Albany MS, Conway SC, Morgantown WV, Aiken SC, Hendersonville NC, Columbus MS, New Bern NC

 

***********************

The South's Best Downtowns

When Site Searching the South, Make Sure You Inspect a Community's Downtown First!

 

Source: Southern Business & Development Magazine, Fall 2002

http://www.sb-d.com/issues/fall2002/features/bestdowntowns.asp

 

Introduction by Steve Ruling
Profiles by Trisha Ostrowski and Mike Randle

 

 

Petula Clark, the girl who, in 1964, made "Downtown" one of pop music's most fashionable addresses, is ripe for a comeback. While the lyrics to Clark's No. 1 hit didn't even remotely apply to Southern downtowns between the late 1960s and the late 1990s, her song now can be applied to a growing number of metro downtowns in the South.

 

Instead of a place where you "can forget all of your troubles, forget all of your cares," most downtowns in the South were places where you could find trouble, especially after 5:00. But ever so slowly "the lights are much brighter" again downtown. A renaissance of sorts is indeed occurring in many of the South's central business districts. In fact, for a selected few markets in the South, "everything's waiting for you, downtown."

 

"When I go and visit a place I first look at the community's downtown and its public school system," said Mac Holladay, a noted Southern site consultant and president of Atlanta-based Market Street Services. We asked Mac the importance of a vibrant downtown business district for site searching companies. "Communities that are serious about the future have invested in their downtowns and their public schools," Holladay said. "To me, those two factors are more important than anything else."

 

Holladay may be onto something. While there are many site selection factors to consider during a site search for your company's expansion, relocation or consolidation, a vibrant downtown may be a factor that has not even entered your mind.

 

Recently, our publisher received a call from a reader who asked, "Do you only profile the rural South?" Apparently that reader had a copy of our Rural American South edition, which comes out each February. Always running scared concerning reader perception, our publisher told me we had to do a piece on downtowns in the South.

 

He was even more convinced that we needed to publish a section highlighting the South's best downtowns when, a week or so later, he attended a meeting in an unnamed Southern downtown location. Wanting to purchase items unavailable at the hotel, he walked outside in search of a convenience store. Looking in every direction, SB&D's owner realized there was no place open to walk to from the hotel. No store, no restaurant, no gas station, nothing. "If I was a prospect, stuck in that damn downtown hotel," he later told me, "I'd never come back to that market."

 

So our first attempt to find the South's most vibrant, preserved, livable and happening downtowns began. The angle we decided to take was a simple one. Developing attractive locations for commerce, regardless of the size of the business or sector, in the typical industrial or business park setting is not nearly as difficult as creating the same environment in a downtown setting. For one, most industrial and business parks start development from a clean slate. There is no such thing as developing from a clean slate in a downtown central business district.

 

But more than that, a community that has worked hard to create a vibrant central business district can easily be described as a complete community. Because if a community's downtown is economically healthy, then it has accomplished the toughest task there is to accomplish in the economic development arena.

 

Until now, however, investing greatly in your downtown has been a piece of the economic development puzzle that has been widely ignored. For example, if someone told you they lived downtown 10 years ago, what would have been your reaction? It's only been about five years that markets in the South have really put an effort into developing residential options in central business districts. So, essentially, the rebirth of downtowns in the South is at the infant stage.

 

That being the case, we present to you markets in the South that are ahead of the curve. Sure, there are many Southern communities and metros with great plans for their downtown districts. Those markets now realize how important their downtowns are to their economic future. But the markets profiled here have moved passed the planning stage of their downtowns. They are the forerunners to great downtowns in the South in 2002. In fact, they currently make up the Best Downtowns in all the South.

 

MAJOR MARKETS

 

St. Petersburg, Florida

 

As recently as the 1980s, downtown St. Petersburg was quaint, but arguably lacked energy and cohesion. Then, community leadership made a very wise decision to make the most of St. Pete's strong potential.

 

While other communities aspire to, downtown St. Petersburg now really does have it all - housing, a major university, office buildings, major league baseball, hotels, hospitals, museums, arts, dining and shops. Downtown residents can walk to retail shops and dining establishments easily and safely in what has become a true 24/7 environment. Boaters can even dock at the Southeast's largest public marina, located in Downtown St. Petersburg.

 

Since 1982 (when the original redevelopment plan for downtown began) over $300 million in public investment have been matched by over $700 million in private funding. Much of the focus has been on re-energizing the downtown along its seven-mile long waterfront park system, one of the city's exceptional attributes.

 

In recent years, upscale residential development has dominated growth. Hundreds of new urban condominiums have added even more energy to downtown. The retail shops, restaurants and arts district have grown in response. This year a new hotel will be completed to accommodate the millions of visitors who come to St. Pete for hundreds of events.

 

The University of South Florida's St. Petersburg waterfront campus is another asset in downtown. The school is home to the Knight Oceanographic Research Center, nationally recognized for its marine science programs. More than two dozen public and private organizations now comprise the downtown's marine science community, rating it the largest such community in the Southeast.

 

"The quality environment and urban lifestyle offered by St. Petersburg's revitalized downtown are critical aspects of our competitive offering," explains Cynthia Margiotta, economic development manager for the City. "The downtown's quality of life and amenities help shape our business landscape and allow us to be the 'Gateway to Florida's High Tech Corridor.'"

"With the waterfront parks, we have many events that bring in people from throughout the area as well as the nation. It is an excellent avenue to introduce visitors to the wonderful lifestyle that downtown St. Pete offers," she adds. "Many investors and businesses will say they became aware of St. Petersburg through a vacation. Our downtown is incomparable for hosting site selectors and investors."

 

Richmond, Virginia

 

Richmond is a city of grand monuments that has become a testament to America's New South. The city's historic buildings and world-class museums nestle next to new structures designed to harmonize with the past even as they define the future. Richmond is arguably the only city in the country to have the culture, history, architecture and urbane flavor of the Northeast, combined with southern advantages like modern infrastructure, a pleasant climate and environment, and much lower cost of living and conducting business.

 

Buildings downtown date from the 1700s to 2002, designed by such architects as Thomas Jefferson, John Russell Pope, Minoru Yamasaki, and Robert Stern. It is this fascinating blend of old and new that differentiates the central business district. Downtown also has a healthy blend of tenants, including Fortune 500 company headquarters, advertising agencies, professional services, and of course, state and federal government offices.

 

Indicative of the significant impact of law and finance in downtown, Richmond is one of a handful of cities in the country to seat both a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a Federal Reserve district, located within a few blocks of one another. Also downtown is the burgeoning 34-acre Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, strategically located adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country.

 

Currently the city is experiencing more than $2 billion of development projects. Included in this: a $165 million expansion of the convention center, an $80 million federal courthouse, and a $125 million shopping mall. The re-built Canal Walk has generated new retail and office opportunities while allowing visitors easy access to the country's only urban whitewater along the James River. And, the city has created a financing mechanism to revive the revered Broad Street that previously showcased some of the South's legendary department stores. They will be converted to a luxury hotel and state-of-the-art performing arts center.

 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

"Where businesses thrive and the entertainment never stops"-- that's the reputation of a newly re-energized Downtown Oklahoma City. Over the past ten years, the citizens of this community have come together to make this city a premiere location to live, work and play.


Oklahoma City's Downtown renaissance is largely due to the Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (MAPS), a $254 million, citywide redevelopment tax plan approved by voters in 1993. MAPS was designed to raise $254 million over five years, through a one-cent sales tax. Revenues were used to renovate or construct nine key facilities citywide. The scope of the initiative included a new baseball stadium and riverwalk canal along with a series of dams creating river lakes in downtown, improvements to the fairgrounds, the renovation of the Cox Business Services Center and Civic Center Music Hall, a new 20,000-seat arena which opened this summer, a library learning center (expected to open in 2003), and a trolley system.

 

The MAPS project, which ended its collection period with more than $400 million in sales tax collections and earned interest, did much more than rebuild Downtown OKC and surrounding areas. It restored citizens' faith in the future of a city whose dreams seemed, at times, to boom and bust with the day's oil prices.

As all nine projects moved from vision to reality,
Oklahoma City has also seen a positive ripple effect in entertainment, tourism and convention activities. Many new jobs were created during the construction phase, and substantial private sector investment has stimulated new business and employment opportunities.

 

In addition to MAPS, another big contributor to the changing face of Downtown OKC is Bricktown, the city's newest entertainment and dining district with dozens of restaurants boasting more than 4,000 seats. A highlight of a trip to Bricktown is a trip down the mile-long pedestrian canal via water taxi. In the heart of the area, the Bricktown Ballpark offers a full lineup of Oklahoma Redhawks Triple A baseball games in the summer. The area also hosts the city's annual 4th of July celebration and parade.

 

When city leaders take a look at future private investment commitments for Downtown Oklahoma City, they know the best is yet to come. The recently completed $22 million Oklahoma City Museum of Art is one example. It's a restoration of Centre Theatre, downtown's only surviving historic cinema. The new facility houses fifteen art galleries, a museum shop and more. The original movie theatre is now a 250-seat venue for film screenings. Other plans on the horizon for Downtown OKC include a 45-sculpture bronze artwork commemorating the great Land Run of 1889, a Native American Culture Center, a Bass Pro Shop and additional hotels.

 

As Mayor Kirk Humphreys describes, "As much as we like it right now (downtown), I still don't think we can comprehend all the positive impacts that will be coming from it. All we have seen is the tip of the iceberg. It's a momentum thing, and I think it will only get better."


Little Rock, Arkansas

 

It's a different landscape today for drivers traveling south on Interstate 30 into Little Rock. Snug on the right is 18,000 seat Alltel Arena and just after crossing the Arkansas River on the right is the River Market, a cultural and entertainment district in downtown Little Rock. The River Market continues to bustle with a farmer's market and Friday's Art at the Market. There are frequent announcements of new additions to the downtown community.

 

Two new additions are the $8M Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and Acxiom's $20M, 12-story office complex. The Chamber is one of the most high profile projects ever undertaken by the business community and features a two-story glass atrium lobby with a view of the Arkansas River and two video teleconferencing centers. The Acxiom building will house about 700 employees who will make the River Market district their workplace, starting with 300 in early 2003.

 

To the left of I-30, the Clinton Presidential Center is under construction. The complex, scheduled to open in November 2004, will incorporate the abandoned Rock Island Railroad Bridge and Choctaw Station into a 27-acre park. Heifer International is building its world headquarters and global village/tourist attraction on 30 acres adjacent to the library. The $65 million project should kick off with the opening of the headquarters in 2005.

 

These new attractions have increased the hotel industry's willingness to invest additional dollars into downtown. In a year marked by major downtown developments, one of the biggest was the reopening of the Little Rock Peabody, a $40M renovation. These additions to downtown will spark not only statewide and national interest, but also international appeal.

 

Other notable major markets in the South that have developed vibrant downtowns: Memphis, Tenn.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; San Antonio, Tex.

 

MID-MARKETS

 

Roanoke, Virginia

 

Encircled by the splendid Blue Ridge Mountains, downtown Roanoke, Virginia has achieved the right balance-it is a great place to visit AND a great place to live. Long a hub for commerce, business and entertainment, the 65-block area is well on its way to becoming a 24-hour downtown where you'll find something to do anytime day or night. It offers abundance of restaurants along with Center on the Square, which houses museums of history, art and science, as well as a high-caliber theater, and is located on Roanoke's historic Farmers Market.

 

Along with its attractions for visitors, downtown Roanoke can now add housing and education to its impressive list of attributes. For the better part of a decade, urban pioneers have been moving to this downtown. Undoubtedly, that number will increase significantly with the opening of Eight North Jefferson, an 87-unit apartment building that once housed Norfolk & Western Railway offices.

 

Combine the livability with the resources of the Roanoke Higher Education Center-where 16 institutions of learning coexist in a restored art deco office building, also once owned by Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern).

 

Also on the horizon for downtown Roanoke is a joint project between Carilion Heath System and the Roanoke Valley Development Corporation. The groups plan to renovate two warehouses into one 22,000-square-foot facility along downtown Roanoke's distinctive Warehouse Row. The building is being designed to provide flexible space for technology startups.

Warehouse Row is a newly re-energized part of Roanoke's downtown along the northern fringe. It is truly a 21st Century neighborhood where residents can live, work, learn and play. New greenways and pedestrian-friendly streets directly connect the Row with Roanoke's Historic Market District.

 

"The value of our downtown is immeasurable. When leaders of prospectively locating companies visit Roanoke, we let them stay in a hotel downtown. Then they can walk around to see the huge variety of eating choices and how safe it is," explains Anne Piedmont, director of research & communications for the Roanoke Valley Economic Development Partnership. "Vibrancy in a downtown shows vibrancy in the whole community. Roanoke's downtown makes an incredibly good first impression."

 

Clarksville, Tennessee

By Mike Randle

 

On February 3, 1999, I visited Clarksville, Tennessee's economic development office. Almost directly across the street from the Clarksville/Montgomery Economic Development Council offices was a church that clearly showed evidence that a F-3 tornado had hit the growing north central Tennessee market's downtown sector in the early morning hours of January 22, 1999.

 

The church looked no different than the churches I saw in pictures and on film of World War II Germany after days of devastating aerial bombings (see photo). Unfortunately for Clarksville's downtown, it wasn't just the Madison Street Madison United Methodist Church that suffered damage that night. Over 500 properties were damaged or destroyed, including the historic Montgomery County Courthouse and buildings on the campus of Austin Peay State University. Twenty county government offices were forced to relocate. Total damage: $72 million in a county with less than 120,000 residents. People from Clarksville told me if the tornado had hit during the day the death toll would have been in the hundreds. Fortunately, no one was killed.

 

What has emerged from that destructive night in 1999 is a better Downtown Clarksville. Since the tornado struck, nearly $100 million in public and private capital has been invested in the central business district. The interest in rebuilding the city center has moved beyond the local level. In fact, Clarksville business owners have seen national and international tenants invest in downtown for the first time in history.

 

The center of the restoration of Downtown Clarksville is the new Montgomery County Courthouse. Built in 1880, the courthouse was nearly destroyed by the tornado (see photo). Today the courthouse is the beneficiary of a $10 million renovation. In addition, a new 176,000-square-foot Courts Complex and Millennium Plaza adjoin the courthouse.

 

While businesses, law offices, government agencies and churches continue rebuilding, there was a part of Downtown Clarksville that wasn't touched by the tornado. The Cumberland RiverWalk, a waterside park and recreation area on the Cumberland River continues being improved each year. In fact, improvements in the downtown sector are everywhere to be seen. There are new brick sidewalks, gardens, pocket parks and fountains, amenities that weren't there prior to the tornado.

 

If anything, the tornado forced leaders in Clarksville to invest in their downtown at levels never before seen in history. Prior to January 22, 1999, residents considered Clarksville's city center as "dead" or dying. Today, those same people are now responsible for the rebirth of Clarksville's central business district, making it one of the South's best downtowns.


Shreveport, Louisiana

 

Downtown Shreveport has undergone a renaissance.

 

The beginning of major change was the $21 million Streetscape project, begun in 1992. The result was a facelift that transformed the city and returned a sense of pride.

 

An entertainment renaissance began in 1994 with Harrah's Shreveport casino. Its opening quickly led to occupancy of long-dormant buildings in the Shreve Square entertainment area.

Harrah's did not remain the sole riverboat casino on Shreveport's riverfront for long. In 2000, Hollywood Casino opened its facility featuring a 405-room hotel. Months later, Harrah's added a 514 room all-suite hotel.

 

Not far from Shreve Square, the local community built Sci-Port Discovery Center and Imax Dome Theater in 1998. Also in the 90s, development began on the Red River District, featuring restaurant, retail and entertainment space. In addition, the city's six-acre Festival Plaza was developed to bring large regional festivals and community celebrations to the downtown area.

 

Capitalizing on downtown's visitor appeal, Shreveport is currently building a 350,000 square-foot convention center. The convention center will anchor waterfront development along downtown's northern boundary.

 

But all that glitters is not just entertainment gold in this riverfront city. Shreveport is capitalizing on its historic buildings and vacant warehouses by encouraging construction of residential spaces. Over 100 apartments have been added to downtown in recent years with more currently under construction.

 

In 2000, City Hall moved back downtown for the first time in 40 years. By acquiring and renovating an older office building, the city saved money on new construction and lowered downtown office vacancy rates by 10 percent.

 

What's next for this downtown? Riverfront improvements, including a seawall, an enhanced amphitheater, floating boat docks, and an interactive fountain are coming soon. These amenities and those on the drawing boards re-enforce the appeal of Downtown Shreveport.

 

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

 

Hattiesburg was founded in the late 1800s as a railroad junction in the yellow pine forests of south Mississippi. Within two decades, the town had emerged as a bustling "Hub City" for the entire region. Then, in 1898, a devastating fire destroyed much of the downtown, which had been constructed primarily of wood. Within a few short years, a new downtown emerged built of brick, mortar and reinforced concrete. Today, the intricate facades and stylish architecture of these structures give Downtown Hattiesburg its historic appeal.

 

Known as a retirement destination, a university district and a medical community, Hattiesburg has also received the distinction of being a Main Street community. In 2000, the town joined the Mississippi Main Street Association, a network specializing in downtown revitalization and economic development. Led by the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association (HHDA), the city is committed to preserving the heritage of the downtown while promoting economic redevelopment of this unique district.

 

Revitalization work in Hattiesburg currently includes improving architectural structures and facades, as well as constructing new apartments on vacant property. In addition, the train depot is being transformed into a multi-modal transportation center to serve the area.

 

An important focus in Hattiesburg's downtown revitalization, according to Executive Director of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, Bernice Linton, has been development of the arts. For example, the town's Sanger Theater was renovated in 2000. The original library has been turned into a cultural center. And, the city has acquired an old, nearly torn down high school with plans to convert it into an arts center.

 

Kingsport, Tennessee

 

For more than a century, the unique layout of Downtown Kingsport, Tennessee has been one of its best features. The town's main thoroughfare is anchored on one end by Church Circle (originally home to four churches) and on the other end by the Clinchfield Railroad Train Depot.

 

However, when the railroad closed its passenger service, the train depot fell into disrepair along with many other downtown buildings. Fortunately, major private renovations in the last 20 years have restored Downtown Kingsport to its former golden days.

 

Starting in the mid-1980s, many of the building facades added in the late 50s and 60s were removed and buildings were restored to their original appearance. Private investors partnered with the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce to renovate buildings on Main Street along with the former freight station, train depot and Gem Theater.

 

One of the strong points of Kingsport's downtown today is the number of antique shops within a three-block area. Specialty shops, high-end clothing stores, and restaurants round out the appeal.

 

The most recent downtown revitalization project in Kingsport was the establishment of the Regional Center for Applied Technology (RCAT), part of Northeast State Technical Community College. By offering high-tech training for the local work force along with preparatory courses for high school students, RCAT has successfully attracted a new generation to downtown.

Realizing that a vibrant downtown is essential to successful economic development, Kingsport leaders continue to seek innovative ways to draw traffic to the area-literally. For example, efforts are currently underway to upgrade and improve roadway access to Downtown Kingsport.

Savannah, Georgia

 

Founded in 1733 by James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah, Georgia has become internationally known as one of America's first planned cities. Today, more than 1.3 million visitors are welcomed annually at the Visitor Center along


Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to experience Savannah's rich history, magnificent architecture, and scenic beauty.

 

In the mid-1980s the city of Savannah set the pace for revitalization of its central core, which had declined during the 1960s and 70s, with establishment of the Broughton Street Urban Redevelopment Area. Since that time appraised property values in the 12-block redevelopment area increased from $38 million to more than $140 million. Today, this redevelopment area boasts upper-story loft living, numerous fine retail, dining and fine arts, and lodging establishments, three theatres, and a state of the art library for students of the Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2000, The Gap, Banana Republic and Starbucks joined the list of Broughton Street businesses strengthening the vitality of the commercial district.

 

This successful revitalization effort has sparked a renaissance along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Positioned at the western gateway into Savannah, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard is set to undergo a $16 million face-lift over the next few years with implementation of a comprehensive streetscape plan and Battlefield Park development. This area has grown tremendously over the past three years with more than $46 million of private investment in acquisition and improvement setting the stage for a vibrant renaissance.

 

Lafayette, Louisiana.

 

There was a time when Lafayette, not unlike other cities across the U.S., was faced with a downtown that had fallen into a state of economic and physical obsolescence; characterized by both public and private disinvestment with little business or real estate activity.

 

Organizational efforts and development activities begun in the 80s were interrupted by the severe decline in Louisiana's state and locally-based oil economies. Interestingly during this time, a master redevelopment plan was created for the district.

 

Guided by that master plan and building on the investments of long-term business and property owners, by 1994, local officials, business and civic leaders launched the rebuilding of the downtown environment, capitalizing on a host of partnerships on the private, local, state and federal levels.

 

Lafayette's plan envisioned its future downtown as a center of centers, building upon its traditional government, legal and financial base to incorporate arts, culture, retail, dining, entertainment, housing and professional services.

 

The future is now as Downtown Lafayette has experienced significant change and is well on its way to becoming a 24/7 place where people live, work, play, shop and experience their culture and heritage in a safe, attractive, comfortable and stimulating environment.

 

Since 1996, approximately $75 million in combined local, state and federal funding, have led the transformation and served as a catalyst for significant private re-investment. Key among public improvements and facilities recently completed or in progress, include: extensive Streetscape improvements; a new 75,000-square-foot state of the art natural history museum and planetarium, integrated with a network of urban parks and plazas; an arts and cultural center combining fine arts exhibition with arts education and a 300-seat performing arts theater; a new federal courthouse; and a multi-modal transportation center, including the restoration of an historic train depot.

 

Such public investments are indeed earning dividends. Also, since 1996, $41 million in private building permits have been issued for renovations and new construction. Approximately 160 new businesses, with a conservatively estimated 500 jobs, have moved onto the scene. Technology companies, professional services, specialty retail, art galleries, new dining options, and an emergence of nightlife, are all part of the new mix.

 

Serving as a primary arts and cultural center for the region, downtown is also home to more than 30 special events and major festivals, including Mardi Gras and the acclaimed Festival International de Louisiane.

 

More than 500,000 people each year come to explore the unique cultural fabric that makes up Lafayette's art, culture, history, festivals, music and food and its all conveniently located in the downtown arts district.

 

Chattanooga, Tennessee

 

Located in a bend of the Tennessee River, downtown Chattanooga is a thriving hub for both tourism and regional business. Hailed as a model of downtown revitalization, Chattanooga began a community visioning process in


the early '90s. The results were dramatic. The downtown area now features the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the
United States, an expansive park area, and the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.

 

These projects along with other touches such as streetscaping and public art have made downtown Chattanooga an appealing place for both work and play. Business people and tourists ride side-by-side on electric buses that provide free transit, and new restaurants, shops, apartments, and entertainment venues have blossomed in the area.

 

Chattanooga is continuing its waterfront redevelopment with a $105 million project that includes a downtown pier, pedestrian walkways connecting the aquarium and the Bluff View arts district and a wetlands park. Plans also call for a $30 million expansion of the aquarium and a $20 million
renovation and expansion of the Hunter
Museum of American Art.

 

Other notable mid-markets in the South that have developed vibrant downtowns: Fort Pierce, Fla.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Pensacola, Fla.; Lawrence, Kan.; Columbia, Mo.; Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Beaumont, Tex.; Fredericksburg, Va.

 

SMALL MARKETS

 

Brunswick, Georgia

 

Vigilant historic preservation and natural Atlantic-coast beauty make downtown Brunswick, Georgia, one of the South's best.

 

History has been exceptionally good to this community. Originally laid out in 1771, Brunswick's downtown today remains a grid of streets laced with beautiful squares and pocket parks. The city sits on a deep, natural harbor that has remained a thriving seaport for over 200 years. Also, the economic boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries created a building flourish that gave Brunswick Victorian architectural character.

 

Although in the middle of a resort area (near Georgia's Golden Isles), Brunswick prides itself on being a "real" downtown, rich in amenities for local citizens and for the growing tourist market. Antique shops, art galleries, specialty stores, restaurants and a circa 1899 theater peacefully coexist with banks and government offices.

 

In recent years, the pace of revitalization has accelerated. A major streetscape initiative has linked Brunswick's historic/commercial to historic/residential areas. Many of the community's historic public buildings including the courthouse, city hall and theater have also been masterfully restored. In the last three years alone, the number of restaurants and art galleries have tripled. Meanwhile, Brunswick's waterfront is home to a new city park, ideal for the community's numerous festivals and special events as well as a year-round farmers market.

Focused on continuing progress, downtown Brunswick leadership is currently developing a master plan to drive its next decade of work.

 

"Our momentum is strong. We know the growth is coming to our area," says Bryan Thompson, executive director of City of Brunswick Downtown Development Authority. "We are determined to manage the growth, so we don't lose the character of our community and all of the things that make it so unique."

 

Harrison, Arkansas

 

Tucked in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas is a downtown that is honoring its past. At the same time, it is effectively managing the complexities that come with being a competitive 21st Century destination.

 

Built around a traditional square, which is graced by the 1909-built Boone County courthouse, Harrison, Arkansas captures small-town essence. It features a farmers market, a classic bandstand and parades that celebrate holidays and tradition.

 

Harrison, however, has not been content to stay in the "good ole days." Instead, it has actively sought the human and financial resources to become one of the South's best downtowns. In addition to obtaining a National Historic District-status, the community has pursued grants to beautify the area and to improve streets, sidewalks and buildings.

 

Furthermore, the City and the Chamber of Commerce have transformed a former weed patch into a lively community park bordering the downtown and including a playground, walking trails, a bird sanctuary, picnic pavilions, and a community stage.

 

With vision and hard work, Harrison's downtown business district now boasts a 100 percent occupancy rate. Tourism is on the rise. Quality shopping and upscale restaurants continue to be major draws. And, downtown living has arrived.

 

Revitalization efforts in Harrison show no signs of slowing down. Several major building rehabilitation projects are under way, which when complete, will provide additional housing, technology-equipped office suites and additional retail spaces. A new Trolley Depot is also being added to provide transportation downtown.

 

By embracing progress while preserving its past, Harrison has created a vibrant downtown. And the vibrancy of its downtown makes this Arkansas community a magnet for economic growth.

 

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

Quality of life has played an important role in attracting companies like Cingular Wireless and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems to Jackson County, Mississippi. Enhancing this county's lifestyle quality is Downtown Ocean Springs.


Located on the beautiful
Mississippi Gulf Coast in the most industrialized area of the state, Downtown Ocean Springs is within walking distance of the beach. It provides a multitude of services that make industrialized areas of the county extremely livable.

 

In a fast paced world, Downtown Ocean Springs is reminiscent of a simpler time (the community's motto in fact is Slow Down…Discover Ocean Springs). Beautiful Live Oaks still line the streets, along with one-of-a-kind shops, galleries and unique restaurants. Setting the tone for the community, this downtown offers a small town atmosphere with the amenities of a more metropolitan area.

 

The last 12 years in particular have seen major revitalization efforts. For example, the circa 1907 building, which houses the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center Office, has been restored. In addition, a new art museum has opened, named for American Master and Ocean Springs native, Walter Anderson. Plans are already in place to double the size of facility in the next 18 months. Reinforcing the importance of arts and culture in the community, the old high school has also been transformed into a cultural center.


"The contribution of Downtown Ocean Springs' means much more than just economics. It diversifies the community, thereby providing a continuously higher quality of life," explains George Freeland, executive director of Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, Inc. "The success of downtown Ocean Springs enables us to attract and retain both quality jobs and quality employees."

 

New Albany, Mississippi

 

"Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself," wrote William Faulkner, the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author. It seems appropriate that Faulkner's birthplace, New Albany, Mississippi has taken this approach to improving its community. In the early 1990s, the Union County Development Association (UCDA) embraced a multi-faceted approach to economic development, including industrial recruitment, tourism, and downtown development. The organization and the community have worked aggressively on all these fronts.

 

Besides recruiting several large industrial projects, UCDA also obtained National Register of Historic Places designation for downtown, New Albany introduced the Main Street Program to the city, and helped the city implement a tourism tax. In 1996, New Albany became an official Main Street city.

 

Since that time, the New Albany Main Street Association has helped the city make tremendous progress in revitalizing its historic commercial district. In total, nearly $2.5 million of public and private reinvestments have occurred with 30 new businesses and 26 building rehabilitations.

 

Also, events have been developed to draw families downtown. For example, the annual Tallahatchie RiverFest is held downtown at the Union County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pedestrian friendly lighting, banners and park benches have also been installed. Seasonal plantings and flowering trees have been added to beautify city streets.

 

Downtown New Albany is also home to the newly renovated Magnolia Civic Center, the Park Along the River, a newly restored early 1900s Coca-Cola mural, and a museum commemorating Faulkner's life and work.

 

These projects show that the multi-faceted economic development approach has paid off for New Albany. The tourism tax provides the bulk of Main Street's budget as well as helping fund many of these projects. The economic benefits generated by the industrial locations have impacted not only downtown, but also the entire community.


Conway, South Carolina

 

Next time you are headed to the South's family entertainment Mecca, Myrtle Beach, may we recommend a small detour? Check out Downtown Conway (less than 15 minutes away). You will uncover one of the South's hottest small-markets, one with a downtown that is alive and well.

 

Downtown Conway has preserved its colorful past and small-town values while pro-actively addressing its economic challenges. Thanks to major revitalization efforts, it is once again a thriving hub and the center of community activities. Its streets, lined with massive Oaks, are now full of sophisticated shops and four-star restaurants.

 

Since the inception of Conway Main Street USA in 1985, revitalization efforts have been intense and highly successful. Downtown vacancies have been drastically reduced, private reinvestment has topped $13.3 million, nearly 200 businesses have been added to the downtown roster, and hundreds of jobs have been created. All in all, growth of the downtown has mirrored tremendous expansion of the area as a whole.

 

With the goals of bringing people downtown and keeping businesses full, Conway leadership has undertaken several key projects. For example, when a push was made to move the county's judicial facility away from downtown, community leaders fought to keep it in the "heart" of Conway. The result is a new $40 million judicial center being constructed next to the historic county courthouse.

 

The riverfront area, which previously suffered neglect, has lately received well-deserved attention. A new river walk, marina and amphitheater have all been constructed. Additionally, the old theater on Main Street has been returned to its circa 1950 glory, the historic building has been restored, and the museum and library have recently been expanded.

Joe Woodle President of PARTNERS Economic Development Corporation praised the Conway community for its vision and dedication, "Unlike many areas, we make a point of introducing our clients to our downtown area. It sets the perfect tone for attracting new investment and showcases our extraordinary quality of life."

 

Morgantown, West Virginia

 

Home to West Virginia University with over 22,000 students and 5,000 faculty using downtown infrastructure daily, Morgantown is a 1998 Great American Main Street Award winner, named the Best Small City in the Nation by bizjournals.com and voted the Third Best Small City in America by The New Rating Guide to Live in America's Small Cities. Since 1990 officials with the city have been highly successful in riverfront development, rehabilitation of historic sites, streetscape projects, developing and implementing urban design guidelines and recruiting business to the central business district.

 

Aiken, South Carolina

 

Near South Carolina's border with Georgia is Aiken, a town of grand historic districts and wide lanes under arching Live Oaks. Long a winter retreat for the rich, the town is still peppered with bluebloods and reputed for its steeplechase events.

 

As you might expect, Aiken's sophistication overflows to its downtown. Among the qualities that make it one of the South's best, Downtown Aiken is particularly pedestrian friendly. It is a charming blend of inns, specialty stores, and cafes-the kind of downtown where shopkeepers call you by name. Reflecting old-fashioned values, banners stretch across major streets touting positive character qualities such as "generosity," "integrity," and "hospitality."

 

History combines with aesthetic beauty to create the ambiance of this downtown. Colorful seasonal plantings are everywhere. Wiring is increasingly moving underground. Backs of buildings are being painted to make them as attractive as the fronts. Decorative light poles, benches and wider sidewalks are also being added. The end result is an attractive streetscape to be enjoyed by residents and visitors.

Emphasis on the arts has been a particularly important component in Aiken's revitalization efforts. The community playhouse recently moved downtown, a new art center has opened along with a new festival area.

 

Leading the revitalization efforts is the Aiken Downtown Development Association. This group has focused on important initiatives like maintaining individually owned shops and establishing downtown housing.

 

A key to Aiken's success is citizen involvement through advisory boards, according to June Murff, president of Aiken Chamber of Commerce. "Our community has an open process of change," she explains. "Having citizens involved in deciding the direction for our downtown creates pride of ownership for the entire community."

 

Hendersonville, North Carolina

 

Located in the foothills of western North Carolina, Hendersonville has long been attractive to southerners looking to escape the summer heat and humidity. But even this quaint, picturesque community did not escape the downtown exodus of the 1950s and 1960s.

 

By 1972, the flight of merchants from Hendersonville's downtown to the shopping centers was reaching critical mass. Real estate values in downtown plunged 20 percent while those in other areas of the community increased 50 percent. It became painfully obvious that revamping the Central Business District was an absolute necessity.

 

To keep its downtown vibrant, Hendersonville leaders voted to make the area a "special tax district," giving money-saving incentives to businesses that would put down roots. Downtown leaders also made the strategic decision not to compete with the malls or discount chains in terms of vendors, but rather to recruit locally owned shops and restaurants.

 

By the early '80s, Downtown Hendersonville began to pull out of its death spiral. The traffic pattern was redesigned to become a series of gentle curves that have made Main Street safer for pedestrians and have made parking easier for Hendersonville's large retiree population.

 

Today, Hendersonville's Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts a vibrant collage of specialty shops, professional offices, and corporate headquarters. It has seen a total tax-valuation increase of 300 percent since 1989. A waiting list even exists for the few vacancies that open.

 

Hendersonville has successfully revitalized its downtown through hard work, creative redesign, and sheer Main Street grit-efforts that have paid off well in terms of economic development.

 

"Main Street is a real hook to attract people to our area-from retirees to corporations," says Jim Kastetter, executive director of Downtown Hendersonville, Inc. "Undoubtedly our downtown has helped us attract companies like Kimberly Clark and Steelecase."

 

Columbus, Mississippi

 

In less than 20 years, Downtown Columbus has been wonderfully transformed. What was previously in shambles is now thriving with state-of-the-art facilities. As of this year, the central business district is 75 percent restored and more than 95 percent occupied.

 

In particular, residential development has breathed new life into this downtown. Nearly 90 apartments on the upper floors of historic buildings give residents the opportunity to live and work in the center of town. On the retail end, an increasing number of specialty stores, antique shops and restaurants are locating in Downtown Columbus. As more residents and shops fill the area, an entertainment district is also emerging.

 

Leading Columbus' revitalization efforts since 1985 has been Main Street Columbus Inc., a non-profit public- private partnership. This group has been especially instrumental in historic preservation, beautification, and encouraging community involvement.

 

An important initiative of Main Street Columbus Inc. has been fostering the re-use of Columbus' numerous historic structures, a process that has been far-reaching and highly beneficial. In addition to buildings being converted for residential and retail, the 1920s-built one-time "dime store" is now the local arts center. To raise funds for ongoing revitalization, Main Street Columbus Inc. hosts the annual Market Street Festival, which traditionally attracts a crowd of more than 35,000.

 

Even after two decades of major growth, several new projects are planned for Downtown Columbus in the near future. Included among these are an expansion of the arts center and the construction of a $2.4 million riverwalk.

 

"Main Street is a symbol of our community's economic health, local quality of life, pride and history-all important factors in corporate recruitment," explains Main Street Columbus Inc. Director, Jan Miller. "A vital downtown clearly helps us create and retain jobs."

 

New Bern, North Carolina

 

Beautiful, historic New Bern, North Carolina, located at the confluence of two rivers, is truly a Main Street success story.

 

Over the past 20 years, more than $70 million has been invested in the rehabilitation and new construction of 70 buildings including four new waterfront hotels and three marinas. Property values have increased on average 440 percent, approximately 200 businesses now employ 2,300 people, and tourism, now a major industry, generated $70.4 million in 2000 alone.

 

Rehabilitation efforts began in 1977 as the community faced vacant shops, deteriorating buildings and a declining tax base. It was then that community business leaders developed a Central Business District Business Plan, which became the foundation for an aggressive recovery effort. The plan defined the role that the city's historic assets and waterfront could play in expanding the tourism industry, recreation, and a housing market to attract retirees. It also created Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation to coordinate the work.

 

Subsequent urban design plans were initiated in 1990 and 2002, each with precisely defined goals. Building on the success of the previous initiatives, the most recent plan focuses on improving three main adjacent areas: First, revitalization of the Five Points commercial area and surrounding housing. Second, the redevelopment of a 30-acre industrial tract on the Neuse River into a mixed-use residential neighborhood. Finally, enhancement of the major gateway corridor through downtown.

 

As New Bern enters the 21st century, downtown leaders are ready to face the challenge of sustaining growth and development. "We realize that our downtown is a barometer for the entire community. If the downtown is not healthy, we cannot attract business and industry," says Susan Moffat-Thomas, executive director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation. "We work hard to keep our downtown vibrant. We know that it is an important tool for business and industrial recruitment."

 

Other notable small markets in the South that have developed vibrant downtowns: Alex City, Ala.; El Dorado, Ark.; Leesburg, Fla.; Eustis, Fla.; Kissimmee, Fla.; Athens, Ga.; Thomasville, Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Washington, Ga.; Danville, Ky.; Versailles, Ky.; Ponchatoula, La.; Leonardtown, Md.; Cumberland, Md.; Tunica, Miss.; Clinton, Mo.; Clarksville, Mo.; Waynesville, N.C.; Cordell, Okla.; Okmulgee, Okla.; Eloree, S.C.; Collierville, Tenn.; Mineola, Tex.; Gilmer, Tex.; San Marcos, Tex.; Denton, Tex.; Staunton, Va.; Orange, Va.; Winchester, Va.; Charlottesville, Va.

 

 

Kingsport is located on the Tennessee-Virginia border at the crossroads of I-81 and I-26 near the geographic center of the Eastern U.S. This city of 50,000 in a metro of 308,000, was planned by renowned American planner John Nolen in his office at Harvard Square. Located in the lush green foothills of the Tennessee Valley, it is surrounded by the Southern Highlands and mountain lakes. Kingsport is home to Marriott’s www.MeadowViewResort.com and thousands of acres of unique, natural amenities at Bays Mountain and Warriors Path Parks. The natural geography provides a temperate, well-balanced climate with four seasons and a natural shelter from extreme weather. Population growth has also been well-balanced, ensuring you will not outgrow your decision to relocate. With no personal property taxes, special assessments, or state income taxes on salaries/wages, you’ll find that Kingsport has a very low cost of living coupled with an exceptionally high quality of life (see for yourself at www.BestPlaces.net). The regional airport (TRI) has direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and St. Pete/Clearwater with easy access, parking, and virtually no security lines. The public education system was planned by Columbia University and Newsweek has repeatedly recognized the local high school as one of the best in America. Year in and year out our graduates go on to the top colleges and universities (and without costly private school tuition fees). Harvard also recognized Kingsport in 2009 with the Innovations in American Government Award for its higher education initiative. What are you waiting for? It’s time to leave the high costs, traffic jams, and stress behind and discover this hidden gem.