Downtown Revival

Grant money could bring a new
restaurant to New Castle

Renaissance Committee working on project

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (December 2003) – The Main Street of New Castle, Ky., may soon entice a new restaurant to the area due to the combined efforts of many local citizens. Revitalization efforts are under way to improve business in the heart of the downtown area.

The Old Locker

Photo by Helen McKinney

The Old Locker building in New Castle.

A Renaissance Committee was formed and a proposal submitted by Aug. 29. Within three months the proposal was accepted, and the city has been awarded a $250,000 grant. This grant amount includes enough funds to purchase the property located at 24 S. Main St. and renovate it. An awards ceremony was held in Frankfort, Ky., at the Capital Rotunda on Nov. 12 to present the funds.
Mary Jane Yates is the Main Street Director for nearby Eminence, Ky., but has been filling in as interim Main Street director for New Castle, while the city is without one. The New Castle City Commission assigned a board of directors to oversee downtown revitalization efforts, and it was Yates’ job to coordinate their efforts.
The Renaissance Com-mittee falls under Renaissance Kentucky, a program created by Gov. Paul E. Patton. It was designed to bring together communities and the necessary resources to revitalize and restore Kentucky’s downtowns.
After some paperwork exchange between Frankfort and New Castle, the city will be able to purchase the lot, often referred to as The Locker. The Coomes family of Henry County presently owns it.
The city plans to retain ownership of the property, said Yates. The city will offer incentives to a tenant by contributing in-kind funds, which will reduce the rent considerably for a period of the first five years of occupancy. Such funds may also help with parking facilities.
Extensive renovation is needed, which will be paid for by the bulk of the grant, said Yates. The two-story building has never contained a restaurant before, so proper electricity and plumbing are needed. A large room on the second floor may be used as a banquet facility for private groups.
“We’re going to be very careful in the solicitation of accepted proposals,” said Yates. A table-service restaurant is sought, where customers may sit down in a nice, friendly atmosphere for lunch and dinner.
There are already two entities interested in leasing the business, said City Commission member Andy Klempner. But he pointed out that the Renaissance Board would proceed cautiously since this is the first time they have done anything like this.
“Each City Commissioner has an area of responsibility. My area is Renaissance and Historic Preservation,” he said. The Locker was originally used as a buggy manufacturing shop, and there remains inside a gear and shaft too big to move, said Klempner.
A previous market study conducted on consumer and business owners in the area indicated that a restaurant was the number one desire for the area, said Yates. “We already had the data in place to show that the grant was vital to New Castle. Our main focus now is to show that receipt of the grant will provide a strong economic impact for the community,” she said.
Klempner and his wife, Debbie, formerly owned and managed a restaurant in New Castle called the Heritage Tea Room. From experience, Klempner learned that with a restaurant on Main Street, “the merchants did quite a bit more business.” It created a lot of business and traffic through the downtown area, he said.
A new restaurant on Main Street would make New Castle a destination point for people from the surrounding counties of Shelby and Oldham, as well as visitors from Louisville, Klempner said. It would provide them with a reason to stop as they pass through on I-71 and I-64.
Yates attended a Kentucky Main Street-Renaissance Kentucky quarterly meeting on Oct. 22-24 in Benham, Ky. All Main Street directors are required to attend training sessions focusing on such topics as Economic Restructuring (as part of the Kentucky Certified Main Street Manager Training), Old Buildings-New Opportunities, and a tour of the Pine Mountain Settlement School’s Artisan Program.
These training sessions reinforced “ways to enhance what already exists,” said Yates. Through speaker presentations, attendees learned techniques to not only draw in new business to an area, but to support existing business as well.
Hands-on preservation methods were demonstrated at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Yates said that to see craftsmen at work on site was an important aspect to the training sessions.
Out of 58 communities that applied for funding, only 12 received funding. A maximum amount of $250,000 in grant funds is available out of a pool of $6 million. A total of $2.8 million was awarded to these 12 communities, which included New Castle.
Both Yates and Klempner said many people worked on the grant application. The Renaissance Board consists of 10 members, and there were also nonmembers who contributed their ideas and knowledge.
Klempner’s daughter, Amy Ramsey, wrote a business plan to accompany the grant proposal. When the grant was reviewed, New Castle’s application contained “what the other applications lacked,” said Klempner. Frankfort officials have indicated that the business plan may be used as a model in the future.
Ramsey said the business plan contained an outline of everything involved in the project: a summary of what the restaurant will be, the number of customers it can accommodate, the management team, hours, projected income for the first two years, a breakdown analysis and risk analysis.
Ramsey holds a job in human resources but is attending Bellarmine University to complete her MBA. She has submitted projects similar to the grant proposal’s business plan for her classes. Ramsey is a Renaissance Board member and quickly realized “we needed a business plan.”
Working with several other people, she drafted a unique business plan for improving downtown New Castle. Having grown up in Henry County, Ramsey thinks it’s a great place to call home. “We see it as a start for our future,” she said of the grant.



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