Carrollton’s ‘Renaissance’ to begin

Main Street Program holds
open house to kick off the project

By Don Ward

CARROLLTON, Ky. – Work has begun on streetscape beautification upgrades in downtown Carrollton, and the Carrollton Main Street Program is using the opportunity to recruit more volunteers to expand its 15-member organization.
Main Street Program volunteers held an open house on April 14 to sign up new members and to display plans of the downtown project, being funded largely through a $472,830 grant from the Kentucky Renais-sance Program as part of Carrollton’s designation as a Silver City in 1998. In addition to the grant, the city and other organizations have contributed $142,726 toward the project.
The Renaissance Program helps cities so designated become eligible for enhancement funds available through the state’s transportation department.
The Carrollton beautification project includes burying utility cables around the courthouse square, repairing and creating new sidewalks, and installing decorative street lights in the downtown area. The improvements will be made to both sides of Highland Avenue from Fourth to Sixth streets; to the east side of Fifth Street; the west side of Court Street; the north side of Main Street.

East & Westbrook Con-struction Co. of Buckner, Ky., was the winning bidder for the project. It will work with employees from Chrisman, Miller and Woodford, the design firm hired for the project. Main Street volunteers say they hope all work will be completed in time for the Two Rivers Arts & Crafts Festival in September.
“We’ll be working with business owners to let them know when work will be going on outside their doors,” said Dick Firestone, the Main Street Program director. “Our hope is that no business will have to shut down during this process.”
In addition to the street improvements, downtown businesses can apply for building facade improvement money available through a separate grant totaling $37,500. The city has matched that amount.
As of mid-April, six businesses had applied for such funds, and a half-dozen more had expressed interest, according to building inspector John Welch, who is directing the program locally in conjunction with the Kentucky Heritage Council, which oversees the application process.
“We had a real slow start because people were kind of wary of getting involved with the city,” said Welch, 48. “Now we’re getting the ball rolling in order to qualify for more money over the next two-year period.”
He added that the current grant money must be used by April 2001. And he credited the Main Street Program volunteers for bridging the gap between the city and the business community in their promoting the facade improvement program.
The Carroll County Community Development Corp. wrote the initial grant and will administer the program “to make sure the work is done properly,” said executive director Joey Graves. His predecessor, Bill Mitchell, wrote the grant, which was awarded in April 1999.
Graves is now working on getting Carrollton to gold-level status of the Renaissance Program to qualify for even more enhancement money. “At that level, cities can obtain federal and state money,” Graves said.
But before the city can go for the gold, it must correct some existing problems, according to Mayor Ann Deatherage.
“We have a committee working on that,” she said.
She has been attending the monthly Main Street Program meetings and says the dedication of the volunteers is paying off. She says more efforts are under way to get information to local business owners about the facade improvement program to encourage more participation.
She said the process “is pretty well governed by strict rules and regulations” but that the amount of money available is significant.
Plans submitted by business owners must first be approved by the city’s Design Review Board and the Main Street Program before being forwarded on to the state level, she said.
As far as future downtown development opportunities, Deatherage said she would like to see more specialty shops and eateries. She also hopes to add occasional entertainment on the courthouse lawn with the planned upgrades to the electrical outlets there.
Meanwhile, Firestone said private business owners along the city’s riverfront have granted permission for Main Street Program volunteers to conduct a riverfront cleanup to remove small trees and brush and other debris.
“We have the Army Corps. of Engineers’ verbal approval to bulldoze down there. We want to make the city look nice to people passing by in their boats,” Firestone said. The property owners, however, have not granted public access to those areas after the cleanup.
“People around here have been talking for 20 years about creating a riverwalk of some kind, and the property owners are starting to work together more, so there may be some hope,” Firestone said.
One property owner, Pat Hill, welcomed the idea of more use of the city’s river access to help boost downtown activity. “I wouldn’t mind seeing a marina open up down there,” said Hill, 37, whose family owns the buildings at 445-447 Main St. “There used to be one at Fifth Street when I was a kid.”
Carrollton Inn and Landing owner Bill Frederic plans to install a small dock this summer at the edge of his property for his customers who arrive by boat. But with the city’s prime location along the river, Main Street officials envision more widespread access for visitors traveling by boat in the future.
“It’s hard to have a downtown this close to the river and not take advantage of it,” Firestone said.

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