Looking ahead to a healthier downtown
Is Main Street making a comeback?
That’s a question we ask on this week’s front page, and frankly, it’s a question that we hope we will ultimately be answered in the affirmative.
For years Hazard has sprawled well beyond the limits of its downtown, adding new businesses and jobs along the way. While that has, in the long run, been a good thing for Perry and surrounding counties, for Main Street it has meant that businesses like Sterling Hardware and the Family Theater are now only a memory.
Photos from the 1950s show Hazard’s Main Street in its heyday, and it’s an era that we here at the Herald have repeatedly written about for the past few years. We may risk romanticizing our city’s former downtown a bit much, but when looking at those old black and white photos it’s hard not to, seeing what seems to us like a bustling center of commerce that we have never known.
Today’s Main Street looks much different. Though many of the buildings have survived, most of the businesses have not, and in some cases there’s a few empty store fronts where a few decades ago local merchants would be selling wares or services.
But as we report this week, there are some people in the downtown area who think that preserving and pushing forward on Hazard’s Main Street is an effort with some merit. And we couldn’t agree more.
We think there’s a blueprint out there for a resurgent Hazard and Perry County with a solid economic base that utilizes coal, but also looks beyond an extractive economy. We would really like to pretend that we’re looking at that blue print as this piece is written and that we have all the answers, but in truth no one can lay claim to that.
But one thing we will hold true to is that one hope for a resurgent Perry County should include Hazard’s downtown, which has a lot to offer. What Hazard is really missing is something akin to an arts district. Our city already has some infrastructure in place, like the outdoor amphitheater beside City Hall and the nearby Forum, and we also have a drama company in the Little Theatre which produces quality productions every year. We should be capitalizing on these assets which we already have, and then building upon them.
Downtown Hazard has room for an artisan center like the one in Hindman, and our county has a number of talented artisans whose work could find some much needed exposure beyond a handful of bazaars and craft sales held locally each year.
But like anything else these days, we’re also aware that any new initiative is going to cost someone something, and there’s isn’t a lot of extra money to go around. But at the same time, these are worthy efforts, as are any that can bring more people to our downtown and help Hazard build a more robust economy.
— The Hazard Herald
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