At the crossroads

‘Discover Downtown La Grange’
sets goals for growth

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (March 2005) – La Grange is the largest city in Oldham County and the county seat. It houses the county government offices, planning and zoning and the county clerk’s office. This hubbub of the county is the place where everything comes together and moves ahead.

LaGrange Main Street

Photo by Don Ward

Main Street Program members say they are holding off applying for grants until the train redesign issue is settled.

The county was established in 1824 and three years later, resident William Berry Taylor offered a 50-acre tract of land for a new county seat at the crossroads of two of the county’s most important routes: the Westport-Shelbyville and Louisville-New Castle roads. For this reason, the town was formerly known as “Crossroads.”
Due to its proximity to Louisville, the county has continued to grow steadily and this increased population and economic expansion are factors taken into consideration by Discover Downtown La Grange (formerly Crossroads La Grange Main Street Program).
History tends to repeat itself. “La Grange is at a crossroads. We are facing the railroad upgrade as well as the many changes that are taking place due to increased population,” said Discover Downtown
La Grange Main Street Director Keli Quinn. She believes the input and involvement of local citizens and businesses is needed now more than ever for La Grange to remain an economically viable city and a great place to live.
“We need to make changes, but we also need to preserve our downtown’s unique heritage. That’s our focus,” said Quinn.
The name change came about a couple of months ago because the program needed a name that was more action-oriented, said Quinn. She also wants the public to know that the program encompasses the entire downtown Renaissance District, not just Main Street.

Karen Eldreidge

Karen Eldridge

Discover Downtown La Grange promotes the continued revitalization of downtown La Grange in the context of historic preservation. It is a member of Kentucky’s Main Street Program, which falls under Renaissance Kentucky.
Renaissance Kentucky is a program instituted by former Gov. Paul Patton to channel funding into smaller downtown areas. Recent changes in the state’s Renaissance program will require Discover Downtown La Grange to do more in the area of job creation and retention. It is often the catalyst to create and manage new public improvement projects that enhance the downtown community.
Discover Downtown La Grange officials would like to see the downtown area maintain a good balance of offerings for retail shoppers. Several new events have been planned to draw interest to the area for visitors to discover this “crossroads.”
One new event is “The Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tours,” which returns this spring by popular demand. The ghost tours will be held every Friday in April and May, and each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Participants visit the inside of two of the most popular sites, The Garden Party, a former funeral home location on Main Street, and Christmas in Kentucky, the circa 1840 home of William Berry Taylor on Washington Street.

Keli Quinn

Keli Quinn

Discover Downtown La Grange will launch an expanded farmer’s market on the courthouse square every Saturday in June, with hours from 8 a.m. to noon. The market, which will run until October, will offer produce grown within 60 miles of La Grange, Quinn said. She hopes this will be an effective way to support local businesses and farmers. Producers and growers can participate in the market by invitation only to ensure a fair offering of available products.
Quinn spoke to other Main Street managers within the state to get advice and ideas. She visited the Highlands Market in Louisville, a successful market with a long history. “I felt the community was ready for a market,” said Quinn.
Discover Downtown La Grange is working in conjunction with the Oldham County Arts Association to set up a smaller version of the market during the Saturday morning of the highly popular Arts on the Green juried art show June 4-5. In addition to creating new events, Downtown La Grange also promotes existing events, such as the Arts on the Green and current exhibits at the Oldham County History Center.
A new website for Discover Downtown La Grange will soon be up that states the group’s goals, volunteer opportunities, a calendar for community information, shopping and dinning guides, historic sites and points of interest.
In the past, Renaissance cities were classified as gold, silver or bronze, and funding was allocated according to these levels. With the state’s newly restructured Renaissance program, Renaissance on Main cities will either be certified or not certified, said Quinn. Allocations of money will become more competitive among the certified cities.
Karen Eldridge, chairperson for the La Grange Main Street Program, said Discover Downtown La Grange hasn’t needed to apply for many grants yet. We’re not taking on any large project until the railroad redesign and renovation is finished, she said.
La Grange was classified as a silver city. Discover Downtown La Grange can apply for different grants, but it will not necessarily receive money through the Renaissance Program. “We can get grants, but Renaissance funds are a separate issue,” said Eldridge.
A Farmer’s Market committee will seek grants to aid with creating a structure for the market. Discover Downtown La Grange officials in March will give a presentation about the Farmer’s Market to the La Grange City Council.
A retail market study was conducted three years ago by graduate students from Bellarmine University in Louisville to help determine what types of businesses would enhance the downtown area. The La Grange Business Association has discussed and suggested the following businesses: fabric shop, jewelry store, ice cream parlor, more restaurants, a train and hobby shop, garden store, and children and women’s apparel.
Eldridge said members of Discover Downtown La Grange are looking forward to having a variety of business in the downtown area. Events like the Farmer’s Market are “a good addition to what we already have,” she said. “It will expand and aid in economic growth.”

• For more information, contact Keli Quinn at (502) 269-0126 or KQuinn@DiscoverDowntownLaGrange.com.

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