Smithville was one of 12 communities selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, a competitive community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts. Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, made application for the Tennessee Downtowns Program on behalf of the city of Smithville and later for the $15,000 grant available only to communities in the TN Downtowns Program.
The Tennessee Downtowns Program Steering Committee Members - Steve White, chair; Alan Webb, Mark Ashburn, Wade Smith, & Chamber Director Suzanne Williams – have been working for almost 2 years on this state initiative. After months of attending training events, webinars, and late night meetings, the committee decided that dividing the grant money to accommodate 2 large projects would have the potential to make a more significant impact.
Project 1 would promote exterior improvements to downtown buildings. By investing a minimum of $1,000 in exterior improvements, downtown property owners were eligible to receive $500. Fortunately, the 16 applications that were submitted equaled the number of available grants, so no one was turned down. Mini-Grant recipients included The Flower Box, Cantrell’s Men Store, Cantrell’s Ladies Clothing, Attorney Keith W. Blair, Attorney Frank Buck, Thomas G. Janney, Henrietta Hale, Attorney Jeremy Trapp, Grannie’s Goldmine, Alan Webb, Attorney Gayla C. Hendrix, Richard Williams, Attorney Vester Parsley Jr., Annette Greek, Attorney J. Hilton Conger, and Gail H. Webb.
Project 2 would bring an attractive new structure to downtown - a new open-air stage located at Evins Park located across from the Smithville Post Office to be used for outdoor concerts, performances, and other community events for the public to enjoy and use. Steering Committee Members were excited to partner with the Evins Foundation on this project. Architect Gaius Overton designed the unique, hewn beam structure that will add to the charm and beauty of our downtown area. Local sculptor /wood artist of Beech Hollow Studios, William Kooienga, is also lending his expertise and talents to the project. The city of Smithville prepared and leveled the ground and Smithville Electric dug the foundation for the large wooden beams to be placed. “The stage will be a welcome and beautiful addition to the county,” says TN Downtown Committee chair Steve White. Continued community support will be needed to help complete this huge undertaking. “We will be asking for volunteers in early 2013 to help finish it,” says White. “We think it’s important for this to be a community project where lots of people and organizations have a part in its completion and success.” The Smithville Rotary Club donated $1,000 to help with the costs. The new open-air stage is slated to be finished by Spring, 2013.
Tennessee Downtowns Program Manager Amy New, Kathy LaPlante from The National Main Street Center, and Carla King, Executive Director, Main Street McMinnville attended the mini-grant check presentation to support the work that has been accomplished in downtown Smithville thus far. Amy New commented that out of the 22 TN Downtowns Program communities in which she has worked, the Smithville program has accomplished more than any other with the $15,000 grant. The amazing results have been documented in a video presentation showing the before and after pictures, as well as the new downtown businesses, ribbon cuttings, community improvement awards, 10 new directional signs to downtown, and the new Smithville logo. If anyone would like to view the presentation, stop by the Chamber office in the DeKalb Courthouse, Room 201.
“The National Trust Main Street Center applauds Smithville for embracing the revitalization of its downtown commercial district, and we look forward to hearing many more success stories here and across the state as a result of Tennessee Downtowns,” said Kathy LaPlante.
If you are interested in volunteering to help with the Open-Air Stage project, being on one of the new TN Downtowns Program Committees, or making a donation to the downtown revitalization efforts, call the Chamber of Commerce office at 597-4163.
Caption for Picture
Members of the Tennessee Downtowns Program Steering Committee present 16 Mini-Grant checks to downtown Smithville property owners for revitalization efforts.
Carla King, Executive Director, Main Street McMinnville; Amy New, Tennessee Downtowns Program Manager; Suzanne Williams, Chamber Director & TN Downtowns Steering Committee
Paul Violet, Bessie Jones, Gayla Hendrix, Gail Webb, Chamber President Kathie McGlamery, Annette Greek, TN Downtowns Steering Committee Chair Steve White
Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Kathy LaPlante of The National Main Street Center, Hilton Conger, TN Downtowns Steering Committee Member Alan Webb, Vester Parsley, Tom Janney
County Executive Mike Foster, TN Downtowns Steering Committee Member Wade Smith, Phillip “Fluty” Cantrell, Jeremy Trapp, Keith Blair, Frank Buck