On Thursday, Elizabethton City Planner Jon Hartman shared exciting plans for a downtown revitalization project with high school students from accounting, business, and history courses. The Main Street Program, in which Elizabethton may participate, would unlock grants and resources that would allow the city to strategically design the downtown area and recruit businesses, while preserving its historic integrity.
The Main Street Program provides an outline that has been successful in downtown areas across the nation. The program reports an average return on investment of $26 to every $1 invested, and the return is in building restoration, job creation, reinvested dollars. Hartman believes this could help Elizabethton to proactively adapt to a changing economy, restore downtown buildings, and make the area more vibrant and sustainable.
Following the presentation, students suggested ideas for businesses and asked questions about funding, recruitment, and sustainability.
“I’m really excited to see some changes because I want downtown to be a very nice place – not just for adults, but for teenagers and kids,” said senior Aubrey Toncray. “Right now there’s not a lot for younger age groups, and it would be great to have a hands-on art space that would be good for families.”
Hartman said if the program is approved, he would invite student input to get perspective from a younger demographic.
“If you want to see change in this community it has to start with you by communicating with elected officials or even running for office,” Hartman said.
Toncray said she knows a lot of teens that would love to participate in a teen advisory board for the program. “I feel like people my age are passionate about this because they want something to do and to be involved with,” she said. “We have parks and coffee shops, but not a lot of activities. I think some teens on the board could generate a lot of good ideas. Stuff like this is important to us.”
Students participated in a survey asking whether the city should move forward with the program and any ideas they have to contribute. Hartman said he has been seeking public input at a number of meetings to better inform Council’s decision on whether to participate.