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Lynchburg competing for grant money to revitalize downtown

Posted on Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 11:27 am

By June Pugh

Spring of 2016, Lynchburg was invited to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, an economic revitalization, education and grant program. The downtown program is offered by The Tennessee Main Street project and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Tennessee cities are to selected based on a competitive application process. The Metropolitan Lynchburg/Moore County Chamber of Commerce was designated as the host organization for Metro/Moore’s effort. A Steering Committee was appointed to guide Lynchburg’s effort to capture the competitive grant. Steering committee members are: Chairman Dudley Tipps, Historic Commission member; Lynne Tolley, Historic Commission chairman and Jack Daniel’s Brand Ambassador; Cathy Manis, Lynchburg Winery co-owner; Larry Morehead, County Agent and Moore County Parks and Recreation Board chairman; Rebecca Gold-Johnson, Moore County Purchasing Agent. The Chamber of Commerce president Dave Parks and Mayor Sloan Stewart serve as ex-officio members. If selected, the Downtowns Program would offer a 24 month education process and grant money for consultation to help participants understand what is involved in comprehensive revitalization. The Committee’s first action was to ask the Metro Council for authorization to submit an application. This resolution was approved on March 21, 2016. At the same time, the Council endorsed the goal of economic revitalization within historic preservation guidelines. In their prepared application, the Committee emphasized the support of the county government. In 1996, the County Planning Commission created a Historic District and empowered a Historic Commission to oversee this area. The Planning Commission requires Certificates of Appropriateness before making decisions regarding parcels located within the Historic District. The application also addressed the support of Lynchburg’s revitalization by the Historic Commission and local businesses, including the centerpiece of Moore County’s economy, Jack Daniel’s Distillery. After acceptance into the program, the Steering Committee went to work, attending seminars and training sessions. A mentor was appointed by Tennessee Downtowns to guide them in evaluating Lynchburg’s needs and potential for revitalization. When the training sessions were completed, the committee was awarded $15,000 to research the project they had identified. The Committee looked at the Square from the standpoints of safety, convenience and appearance. They considered improvements such as buried utilities, ADA compliant sidewalks, attractive streetlights, useful, uniform signage, improved trafÞ c ß ow, better drainage and more greenery. The Steering Committee was mindful that Lynchburg is a unique small town that welcomes tourists, but also has a working square and courthouse used by residents. The Committee’s goal has been to develop a plan that encourages Lynchburg’s beneficial tourist trade, but never loses sight of the needs of the citizens. Realizing that remedying the needs they had identified would be expensive, the Committee explored the availability of more grant funding. “We learned,” Gold-Johnson said, “that there is a plethora of grants available from departments such as Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Department of Parks and Recreation, Tennessee Tourism, and federally funded Greenway grants.” Their mentor pointed out that they would have difficulty obtaining these grants without a concept plan that included community input. With this in mind, the Steering Committee has planning meetings at the American Legion Building the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 10 am which are open to the public and have been attended by a variety of interested business owners and residents. There have been two evening public meetings and a questionnaire in the Moore County News. The Steering Committee allocated $10,000 of the grant to contract with landscape architect Darren Henson who is developing the collected ideas into a concept with flexible details that will eventually become a master plan. Throughout this process, the Committee has consulted with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and plans to approach the Metro Council on September 18 for approval to apply for a TDOT Downtown Enhancement grant. This grant would involve burying utilities, making sidewalks safer and improving signage. Balancing the needs of citizens and tourists, the concept being considered would involve signs that direct tourists to additional parking to be created in Wiseman Park and would designate parking around the Courthouse as “Business.” The grant, if awarded, will pay 80% of the cost of the work and the county will pay 20%. According to Gold-Johnson, “it will be August of 2019 before we see anybody with a shovel.” The governing bodies of Moore County will have the final authority regarding any work that is done. While attending training, Committee members met a faculty member at O’More School of Design. She was seeking a small town where students in her Historic Facades class could do assessments and make recommendations for a few businesses. This resulted in a successful experience for all involved and she asked to bring students back for a Merchandising class. The benefit for participating businesses was in receiving custom advice and fresh ideas at no cost. The Steering Committee allocated $3500 which was matched by the Historic Commission and created a locally administered Façade Grant. Businesses wishing to participate have until October 15 to submit their application. Those selected will receive up to $2000 for exterior improvements. Each approved applicant is required to make a 33% investment toward their total project cost. Moore County volunteers have given many hours to this Downtowns project. Central to their planning is the knowledge that Lynchburg is a hometown. Visitors are a welcome economic asset, but behind every decision is the goal of making Lynchburg a comfortable place to live and a place residents can be proud of for years to come. To quote Gold-Johnson, “It’s our little piece of paradise.” If you support these efforts, your comments will be extremely helpful in the TDOT grant application. Letters can be mailed to Rebecca Gold-Johnson, P.O. Box 206, Lynchburg, TN 37352, taken to her of- Þ ce in the County Building, or emailed to metromoore. The deadline is September 26.