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$1.5 million revitalization effort to spur community development

A strategic partnership known as the ReVitalize, ReInvest, ReDevelop Appalachia (R3) Initiative will help spur the revitalization of eastern Kentucky’s downtowns, thanks to a $1.5 million POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission made to the Appalachian Impact Fund.

The grant will be used to initiate downtown revitalization plans that will help attract new private investment to a 10-county area of eastern Kentucky, including Clay, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Lee, Leslie, Letcher and Perry counties. In addition, funding will advance key revitalization projects in the downtown areas of Hazard, Hindman and Hyden.

“Reactivating our downtowns through community controlled and directed projects helps create healthy and thriving communities in eastern Kentucky,” said Lora Smith, fund manager of the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF), which works across the coalfield region to support economic diversity. “In addition to long-term planning support, this grant will allow us to invest in catalytic projects that have the potential to spawn further community-led development in the surrounding areas.”

The Community Economic Development Initiative Kentucky (CEDIK) is partnering with AIF on the R3 Initiative.

“We will work through an extensive and inclusive downtown planning process to tee up our eastern Kentucky downtowns for long-term success,” said Alison Davis, executive director with CEDIK. “We want to provide an amazing visitor experience by fostering vibrant communities that create the right environment for entrepreneurs who want to live and work in Appalachia. This is an essential strategy for retaining and attracting new jobs, talent and business to the region.”

The R3 Initiative’s catalyst projects include:

• 420 Main Street, Hazard – AIF purchased this key property on Hazard’s Main Street and it has become a hub for economic development-focused work in the region providing free office and meeting space for local nonprofits.

• ArtStation, Hazard – A former bus terminal that has experienced foreclosure and a roof collapse, AIF is partnering with building owner the Appalachian Arts Alliance to explore a renovation of the building in order to provide arts programming to diversify the daytime and evening activity on Hazard’s Main Street, and serve as an anchor to attract retail businesses down the block.

• Quiltmakers Inn, Hindman – AIF is providing technical assistance in testing the feasibility of renovating and putting back into service the historic inn to support the area’s tourism economy.

• S&T Hardware Building, Hyden – AIF is working with Citizens Bank of Hyden which owns the building located at downtown Hyden’s key intersection, to explore the renovation and adaptive reuse of the property.

“Advancing these key projects can help kick-start downtown development in these areas,” Smith said. “The Appalachian Impact Fund has the flexibility to be the first-in on projects like this and take risks other investors are unwilling to, in order to test for viability, prove theories of investment, and open channels for additional capital down the road.”

AIF estimates the R3 Initiative will help spur 119 new jobs, 30 new businesses, and 46,700 square feet of redeveloped downtown commercial space across the 10-county region. In addition, AIF estimates $7 million in additional private capital investment will result from the effort. Downtown revitalization is just one of many community-building sectors AIF is investing in throughout the region, through its model that blends capacity-building grantmaking with creative capital.