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Greenville, Kentucky: An Economy Revitalized Through Downtown Investment

Full resource: Facades, Festivals, and Footpaths: Greenville, Kentucky’s Downtown Redevelopment

Date published: 2012
Source: The National Association of Development Organizations
Author: Brett Schwartz, NADO Research Fellow

Greenville, Kentucky (pop. 4312) is like many other small towns in the US. As investments and development move from the area, the downtown began deteriorating with the depreciating local economy. However Greenville has experienced a huge resurgence, the result of a small community’s strong vision for building upon its local assets and infrastructure, seeking  innovative financing, and cultivating partnerships in a challenging economic environment.  This case study can serve as a model for other small communities working to revive their historic downtowns and Main Streets.

In particular, the case study highlights the importance of good partnerships. For Greenville, it was the enthusiastic collaboration between a forward-thinking mayor, a proactive tourist commission, an involved local community, and a supportive area development district. For example, the City worked with western Kentucky’s regional planning and development organization to seek funding opportunities, prepare grant applications, and assist with procurement activities. As a result, in the past five years, over $1.6 million has been raised to fund local redevelopment, streetscape, and recreational improvements. The mayor and city administrator also  met with staff from the Kentucky League of Cities who encouraged the city to implement a restaurant and hotel tax that would fund a Tourism Commission to sponsor downtown events and activities.  

This money has been spent investing in downtown through streetscape improvements and increased pedestrian access, and also reaching out  to local landowners to acquire their land for recreational use. The result has seen wildlife appearing in the new, 12-acre wooded area consisting of a half-mile graveled trail, three footbridges that run over 200 feet, birdfeeders, picnic tables, a four-foot man-made waterfall, and a 150-foot running stream. The park has attracted visitors not only from Greenville but from throughout the region, providing an economic boost to the city and county. Greenville has now become an an attractive place for entrepreneurs to open new businesses, and an  economic and entertainment focal point in Muhlenberg County.

As City Administrator Ben Van Hooser describes, “It really came down to strong local leadership that sought community buy-in and support which has made a huge difference.”

This case study  is part of the NADO Research Foundation’s Vibrant Rural Communities series of case studies, which describes how rural regions and small towns across the country are growing local and regional economies and creating stronger communities. This series shows how communities can leverage a wide range of tools and resources to build on their assets, protect their resources, and make strategic investments that offer long-term benefits.

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