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Wartrace officially designated as a new TN Downtown

Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 at 7:55 am


Wartrace was recently designated as a new Tennessee Downtown. This designation allows for grant funding and other support to go towards the development of the downtown.

The Downtown Communities program is part of the Main Street program and as South Central Tennessee Development District calls it, the ‘baby’ Main Street, according to Shelbyville’s City Planner Thomas Batchelor.

This 24-month program coaches selected downtowns and their steering committees through the steps of launching an effective revitalization effort.

Wartrace’s Economic Growth Committee will be the steering committee.

Wartrace Mayor Brian Ross told The Post, “It’s a great chance for the state to invest in our community and then for us to turn right back around and invest in our committee members and our business owners and educate them about economic growth and the direction we are going in.”

Program activities include training, site visits, regional workshops, webinars, technical assistance, and an innovation project grant.

“We as the economic growth committee figure out how we can push the town in an economic direction. Economic can be improvement of businesses, discussing taxes, what taxes we can alter and discuss,” said Ross.

“Further improving the town and the community is the goal by involving ourselves.”

Seventy-eight communities have participated in the Tennessee Downtowns program, which makes them eligible for the Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Façade Improvement Grant program. Further grant opportunities can also include beautification of the town through adding lighting and improving roads and sidewalks.

Applications for Tennessee Downtowns are accepted every two years, and space in this program is limited and highly competitive.

“I probably spent a month on this application,” said Ross, who added that they had to provide information obtained through the South Central Tennessee Development District about demographics, taxes, and writing a mission statement. “There was a lot that came with it.”

According to TDEC’s official website, to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, communities must:

  • Be a city located in a county that is an active participant in the ThreeStar program.
  • Designate a program area (revitalization district) focused on a traditional commercial district. The district should feature a pedestrian scale and orientation that is compact in size and has a regular pattern of sidewalks that can be comfortably walked. It should also have a critical mass of buildings, at least 2/3 of which are commercial in nature, and businesses which form the foundation for revitalization efforts.
  • Establish a dedicated five member volunteer “Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee” of community leaders who will participate for the length of the program. This will involve allocating time for on-site meetings and training sessions.
  • Have a designated non-profit or local government organization that will house the steering committee and serve as a conduit for the associated grant. This organization must have the financial resources to spend $15,000 on a project which will be reimbursed through the Tennessee Downtowns program upon completion. It must also become a member of the National Main Street Center ($375 annually). local government, chambers of commerce, merchant organizations, business and property owner’s within the district, and others who recognize the importance of downtown to their community and are willing to learn along with the steering committee and be involved where needed.
  • Adopt a resolution by the city government to participate in the program.
  • Clearly demonstrate community need for downtown revitalization assistance.

Other cities include Baxter in Putnam County; Spring City in Rhea County; Decatur in Meigs County; Byrdstown in Pickett County; Loudon in Loudon County; Jellico in Campbell County; Munford in Tipton County; McEwen in Humphreys County; Gleason in Weakley County; Camden in Benton County; Adamsville in McNairy County.