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Chamber to revive heart of Lebanon – Organization aiming to restore downtown –
Aug 18, 2006 12:00 am
Historic Lebanon Tomorrow is looking to Lebanon's past to help shape its future.
Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce President Sue Vanatta said the aim is to preserve as much architectural heritage of the 200-year-old Cedar City as possible while spurring new economic development in the downtown area.
"We have looked at the program in Collierville and Columbia, Cookeville, Maryville, Murfreesboro … all of those have a very viable downtown area, activity going on at night," Vanatta said. "That's one thing we need to find out. What would it take to bring people down here at night?
"… Lebanon is the heart of Wilson County, so it needs to have a lot of focus."
For the Chamber, spurring economic development is a fundamental goal of a new revitalization program, which is part of the Main Street Program.
"We want to look at the economic impact the businesses downtown have, and if other businesses move downtown, what impact would they have?" Vanatta said. "What is available for visitors? … We want to promote the businesses downtown, and we want to make sure people know what is available down here."
And as much of the city's downtown is considered a historic area, the Chamber has taken the lead in refreshing their building's look while respecting its history.
"We totally gutted two buildings and made them one and brought it back to a historic look," Vanatta said. "… We are getting ready to redo our facade on the second part of the building."
And the appearance – a crucial portion of the picture – is one reason Vanatta is interested in building a greenway around downtown.
"I'd like to see a greenway built; a greenway entrance into all areas of the downtown area," Vanatta said. "… Appearance means a lot."
While Lebanon Mayor Don Fox had proposed cutting the city's $25,000 funding to the Main Street program during the budget process – citing a duplicity of efforts between the city and Chamber – he now seems to be behind a team effort.
"If the Main Street Program can become a viable program and get projects completed, then I would have no problem with what we have done at the beautification commission … to just turn that over to Historic Lebanon," Fox said. "If it's going to become a viable, working committee, we don't turn down help. There's plenty of Lebanon to beautify.
"We have other areas in Lebanon which need to be cleaned up … There's plenty for everybody to do."
The city's proposed revitalization plan submitted to the state could be given to the Chamber, but Fox said the key to the program's success would be getting specifics.
"Most of the studies actually have been done," Fox said. "Now they're going to need to bring in someone to do project-specific plans … design and engineering, then get the funding, be it from the state or however they choose to raise the money."
Vanatta said representatives from the county were also involved. The public is invited to help as well.
"It's an inclusive program, not exclusive," Vanatta said.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.