Downtown areas in multiple counties, including Perry County, will receive further funding for downtown revitalization efforts.
On Tuesday, it was announced that a $1.5 million POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission was made to the Appalachian Impact Fund and will be used to help spur the revitalization of Eastern Kentucky’s downtowns as part of the ReVitalize, ReInvest, ReDevelop Appalachia (R3) Initiative.
The grant, officials said, will be used to initiate downtown revitalization plans that will help attract new private investment to a 10-county area of Eastern Kentucky, including Perry, Clay, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Lee, Leslie and Letcher counties. In addition, funding will advance key revitalization projects in the downtown areas of Hazard, Hindman and Hyden, said officials.
“Reactivating our downtowns through community controlled and directed projects helps create healthy and thriving communities in Eastern Kentucky,” said Lora Smith, fund manager of the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF). “In addition to long-term planning support, this grant will allow us to invest in catalytic projects that have the potential to spawn further community-led development in the surrounding areas,” Smith said.
The Community Economic Development Initiative Kentucky (CEDIK) is partnering with AIF on the R3 Initiative.
“We will work through an extensive and inclusive downtown planning process to tee up our Eastern Kentucky downtowns for long-term success,” said CEDIK Executive Director Alison Davis. She continued, “We want to provide an amazing visitor experience by fostering vibrant communities that create the right environment for entrepreneurs who want to live and work in Appalachia. This is an essential strategy for retaining and attracting new jobs, talent and business to the region.”
The R3 Initiative’s catalyst projects include four major structure reboots, two of which are in Hazard.
One of those projects is the 420 Main Street building in Hazard. AIF officials said they purchased this key property on Hazard’s Main Street and it has become a hub for economic development-focused work in the region providing free office and meeting space for local nonprofits. The other Hazard project is the ArtStation, a former bus terminal that has experienced foreclosure and a roof collapse. AIF is partnering with the building owner, the Appalachian Arts Alliance, to explore a renovation of the building in order to provide arts programming to diversify the daytime and evening activity on Hazard’s Main Street, and serve as an anchor to attract retail businesses down the block.
Other R3 Initiative catalyst projects include the Quiltmakers Inn in Hindman and the S&T Hardware Building in Hyden.
“Advancing these key projects can help kick start downtown development in these areas,” Smith said. “The Appalachian Impact Fund has the flexibility to be the first-in on projects like this and take risks other investors are unwilling to, in order to test for viability, prove theories of investment, and open channels for additional capital down the road.”
AIF representatives said they estimate that the R3 Initiative will help spur approximately 119 new jobs, 30 new businesses, and 46,700 square feet of redeveloped downtown commercial space across the 10-county region. In addition, they said, AIF estimates $7 million in additional private capital investment will result from the effort. Downtown revitalization is just one of many community-building sectors AIF is investing in throughout the region, through its model that blends capacity-building grant making with creative capital.