Historic Lebanon gathered community leaders Tuesday at Capitol Theatre, where it was announced that Lebanon would now be certified as a Tennessee Main Street Community.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development officially made the announcement today, with Todd Morgan, Director of the Tennessee Main Street Program, on hand to personally deliver the news.
“It’s my pleasure to be in Lebanon, and I’m excited to announce that Lebanon is our newest Main Street Community; number 26,” Morgan said.
As the 26th city, Lebanon joins 25 other Tennessee cities that are certified by the state program and recognized by the National Main Street Center, which is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Creating vibrant downtown districts that support businesses and draw in community members and visitors alike is an important part of Tennessee’s culture and distinctive appeal in a global economy. Strong downtowns signal a healthy local economy and show companies looking to expand or move why Tennessee is the best place to do business,” ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “I congratulate Lebanon on their achievement and welcome them to the Main Street community.”
Morgan said he’s been familiar with the Main Street Program for a long time and has had the pleasure of working at a local and now a state level.
“I’m excited to work with this community and this wonderful program. I’ve seen it take root in communities and do unexpected and terrific things,” Morgan said. “It can connect folks in a new ways and reacquaint them with the history of the community.”
Morgan said the program focuses on several elements that make for a successful downtown like design of the downtown district, how to promote the district, how the economy works for downtown and a big part is organization.
“You have a great board and partnerships in the community, and that’s how magic happens,” Morgan said.
According to Morgan, in 2012, Main Street communities produced more than $82 million of public/private investment and created more than 600 jobs.
Historic Lebanon Executive Director Kim Parks said Historic Lebanon wouldn’t be where they were today without community support and support from sponsors such as Mayor Philip Craighead, Mayor Randall Hutto and Cumberland University President Dr. Harvill Eaton, among others.
Craighead said years ago when he ran for mayor he learned of the Main Street Program at a time when the city thought they’d be certified but wasn’t
“The stars are realigning and it’s coming around now,” Craighead said. “We’ve got great partners and everybody is stepping up to make things happen.”
Craighead said the enthusiasm that’s happening on the square with new stores and offices really made a difference.
“We just all came together and pulled it together, and look what’s happening. You can’t help but be excited and I am excited and proud of Lebanon, and I really look forward to the coming months,” Craighead said.
Parks said Eaton and Cumberland University also stepped up in a big way this year to partner with Historic Lebanon.
“They’re one of the main reasons we were able to qualify to apply to the Main Street Program and we couldn’t ask for a better friend than Dr. Eaton and Cumberland University,” Parks said.
Eaton said in order to become a Main Street Community, it takes a town with a main street, it takes a progressive board, it takes a great community and it takes a sparkplug, and he said Parks was that sparkplug for Lebanon.
Parks said that because of the hard work of Historic Lebanon board members, Lebanon has moved forward to become part of the Main Street community.
“Historic Lebanon is proud to represent the Main Street mission for Lebanon,” Parks said. “Our community leaders and citizens have shown great support for this cause and we believe our efforts towards the economic revitalization and preservation of our historic Public Square and surrounding neighborhood will be greatly enhanced by becoming a Main Street community.”
Lebanon was awarded the title of Main Street Community after submitting an application to the Tennessee Main Street Program.
The submission states that applicants must show a strong commitment to a Main Street Program from city or county government, an adequate organizational budget, a commitment to hire staff, a strong historic preservation ethic, a collection of historic buildings and a walkable, historic commercial district.
The 26 certified Main Street program communities across Tennessee are: Bristol, Cleveland, Collierville, Columbia, Cookeville, Dandridge, Dayton, Dyersburg, Fayetteville, Franklin, Gallatin, Greeneville, Jackson, Jonesborough, Lebanon, Leiper’s Fork, Kingsport, Lawrenceburg, McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Morristown, Rogersville, Tiptonville, Savannah, Union City and Ripley.