TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. (WATE) — Ten communities across the state have been selected to participate in the Tennessee Downtowns revitalization program. Two of those communities are in East Tennessee.
Officials with the state Department of Economic and Community Development announced at the start of April that the communities of Alexandria, Copperhill, Cumberland Gap, Decherd, Loretto, Newbern, Oneida, Rossville, Tellico Plains and Waverly were all selected.
The mayor of the Town of Tellico Plains explained this was her second time applying for the program.
“Two years ago the committee had applied for this grant, the Tennessee Downtown Program, and had been denied that so everybody was trying to keep their spirits up,” Mayor Marilyn Parker said. “The way things are going right now for Tellico, the Lord has blessed us and we got it on our second go around.”
The two-year program’s goal is to help local communities revitalize traditional commercial districts, create jobs all while maintaining the historic charm of downtown districts. The communities each have downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago.
Keeping the charm is something Parker explained is important.
“We’re trying to bring a lot of things into town and the community is backing us, supporting us,” she said. “Of course, we do not want to grow too much, too fast, we want to stay Tellico Plains,” Parker added that it is important to her the town does not become a place unrecognizable to the people that call it home.
Once community leaders complete the training program, they become eligible for $15,000 grants for downtown improvement projects.
Parker said right now they’re not certain what the grant money will be spent on, but new signage to get people to their downtown area has been one idea discussed.
She said ever since the creation of the Cherohala Skyway, people have bypassed their downtown.
“When it bypassed our downtown center it kind of just took away, not decay, but people just stopped coming in because you had to go out of your way to come through,” Parker said.
“The Tennessee Downtowns program is an essential part of our rural development strategy,” Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in a statement.
More than 65 communities have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.