|Kremer with participant at the Creative|
Placemaking Bootcamp held at the
Main Street Now conference in
Milwaukee, 2016. Credit: DDM.
During his tenure Kremer built partnerships that mobilized hundreds of volunteers and helped to attract over $500,000 for revitalization of this historic Appalachian Kentucky downtown. Funding came from a variety of sources including Federal government agencies, the Levitt Foundation in Los Angeles, the New York Community Trust in New York, and the largest and highest level of private giving in the history of the organization.
“Downtown Middlesboro has witnessed remarkable transformation and change these past four years,” Kremer said. “Discover Downtown Middlesboro has received national recognition as a leader in creative placemaking through our Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series, several Better Block events, and the success of our pop-up shop The Palace.”
Among the earliest, strongest, and most consistent support came from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). They provided an initial $10,000 for strategic planning through a grant administered by the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. Some goals that were identified through extensive public input were trail building, job creation and entrepreneurship, and encouraging historic preservation.
Early results came through a $100,000 Recreational Trails Program grant awarded in 2013 by the Kentucky Department for Local Government. This assisted with the first phase of a trail to connect the downtown with the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The National Park Service joined in the effort through a technical assistance grant from the Recreational Trails Conservation Assistance program. The NPS worked with a class of landscape architecture students from the University of Kentucky and Middlesboro residents to design a citywide trail system in 2014.
Additional funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Kentucky Heritage Council through the Certified Local Government program assisted with development of a preservation plan. Many building owners proceeded with building renovations and façade improvements, aided by technical assistance from the Kentucky Heritage Council. The first tax credit project downtown in 25 years was completed by Dr. Stallworth. This has since been followed by owners of five other buildings seeking to utilize this incentive.
Before and after of the Pinnacle Building. Credit: DDM.
Better Block Middlesborough was a signature project that rallied people and resources to bring change about in a short period of time. In October 2013 over a hundred volunteers transformed a block of the downtown through low-cost citizen-led interventions. Mike Lydon with Street Plans Collaborative participated in the event and later included a photo from Middlesboro in his book Tactical Urbanism. This event was repeated in May 2014 and again in June 2016, brining further impressive changes about from pop-up shops, to pop-up parks, and public space improvements.
Middlesboro was invited to present this tactical urbanism and placemaking work at the National Main Street conference in Detroit in 2014, Atlanta in 2015, and Milwaukee in 2016. The US EPA also invited Middlesboro to present at the National Brownfields Conference in Chicago in 2015. Middlesboro was honored to be named a Great American Main Street Award Semi-Finalist in 2014 and recipient of the first-ever “One to Watch” award that same year. Other awards include winner of the Successful Communities Contest held by the Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters in 2013, the Kentucky Main Street Economic Restructuring Initiative Award in 2014, and Local Foods, Local Places winner in 2016.
The Makers Market was a pop-up shop opened in April 2014 to demonstrate the potential of an artisan-led economy downtown through an ARC grant administered by the Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College. Following this demonstration project The Palace was launched in the same storefront starting in December 2014. Over time this grew to become a vibrant community meeting space featuring the work of 40 Appalachian artisans available for sale. Recognizing the success of this effort, the New York Community Trust awarded $110,000 to hire a director and assistant to run an entrepreneurship training program. Partners with DDM in this “Selling to the World Initiative” include the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.
|Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series started on a vacant gravel lot transformed through |
creative placemaking. Credit: DDM.
An effort to build a small sixteen by sixteen foot wooden stage during the first Better Block event came to full fruition through competing in and winning the Levitt AMP [Your City] contest in 2015. Middlesboro was among 10 cities in the US awarded $25,000 to transform a neglected public space through creative placemaking, and to hold a series of ten concerts there. Unused farmers’ market sheds were transformed in to a stage, sod laid down over the gravel, and a lively green space for live music was born. Middlesboro competed and won again in 2016. An impressive steel canopy was donated by a local company and put up over the stage. The series has been well received and local leaders are already talking about competing for a third year of concerts.
Middlesboro was selected as a Local Foods, Local Places grant recipient in 2016. The US EPA, ARC, and numerous other agencies assisted with a community workshop and development of a plan to put local foods at the center of revitalization efforts. Projects that were selected for funding included development of a demonstration garden on the Levitt lot to show the possibility of developing local food, and creation of a marketing plan to promote local food, trails, and the downtown. A marketing deal with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture provided support for the successful Wing Fling competition and the Levitt concerts, through encouraging use of Kentucky Proud products supporting Kentucky farmers.
Middlesboro benefited from numerous training opportunities. Sixteen residents and local leaders attended the Brushy Fork Annual Institute since 2013 and received training in community philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and effective communications. A team was selected to participate in the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative in Abingdon in 2014, to learn about asset-based approaches to revitalization. Participation in the Appalachian Rural Development Philanthropy Initiative gave guidance on community philanthropy. One other recent opportunity was participation in the Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange and the Kentucky Institute on Economic Development.
“In reflecting on my four years of service and the broader history of Middlesboro, it has been my honor to elevate the profile of Middlesboro nationally and win support for revitalization efforts. As DDM prepares to celebrate the ten year anniversary of its incorporation on October 13 this year, I hope that people recognize the gains made over the past decade and redouble their commitment to revitalization of this naturally beautiful and historically significant town and region. Middlesboro is one of the bright lights in Appalachia and truly America’s next great investment opportunity,” Kremer said.