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Renaissance Grant

La Grange group wants city
to be considered for Renaissance grant

By Helen E. McKinney,
Contributing Writer

(June, 2002) LA GRANGE, Ky. – When Elsie Carter opened her Garden Party Restaurant in La Grange 12 years ago, she says “there was nothing else on Main Street at the time.”
Things are about to change. Several business owners and concerned citizens think the entire downtown area could be revitalized with help from the Kentucky Renaissance Program. The project assists towns financially by providing a variety of options to pay for renovation efforts.

La Grange Main Street

Oldham County
Main Street

Carter had opened her restaurant at the suggestion of Bill Lammlein. At the time, the Robin’s Nest restaurant had closed, and Main Street looked somewhat deserted.
Following her lead, different shops were soon established in the space above Carter’s restaurant. Eventually, these shop owners branched out into buildings on Main Street, filling up vacancies.
Carter, who also lives in the same building as her restaurant, said she spent a lot of money to renovate the building. Now she would like to see money become available so that other businesses on Main Street can be spruced up.
Carter said she would like to see the buildings renovated to “look like they did in the 1880s,” when many of them were built. She said she would also like to see a park area incorporated into the final image.
Cities can be accepted into the Renaissance Program at one of three levels: silver, gold, or bronze. The levels denote how much money will be given to the city.
Lammlein said he hopes La Grange will be entered into the program at the gold level because the “funding levels are higher per year than at the silver level.”
An eight-person Renais-sance Committee has been created to establish what criteria La Grange already has and what needs to be implemented to make it eligible for the project.
“A lot goes into it,” said Carter of the application process. But she hopes the community will share the end result.
She said community involvement is important. “If you don’t have their input, you don’t have anything.”
Carter said she would encourage citizens to come forward with suggestions on what improvements can be made and present these to the Renaissance Committee. The committee was appointed by Mayor Nancy Steele and is comprised of downtown business owners Lammlein, Linda Foster and Karen Eldridge; Oldham County History Center Co-Director Anita Fritz; City Council members Joe Davenport and Carter; Chamber of Commerce president Joe Schoenbaechler; and City Clerk Zella Smith.
Schoenbaechler said the recent participation of La Grange in the program provides the opportunity for the community to come together and discuss a plan of action.
One goal of the committee is “to expand the area and bring it together visually,” said Schoenbaechler. “We don’t want visitors to stay on one block, but also cross the street,” where they will find a diversity of businesses all within close proximity of one another.
Lammlein said completion of this project should bring more business and tourism into the downtown area. He is an architectural designer and his business, W.J.L. Design, has been on Main Street for 16 years.
Kitty Bierbaum is another business owner on Main Street who thinks her business, Old Oak Frame House, could only be improved by the project. It will bring “a lot of variety to the area,” she said.
The area to be refurbished would include “not just the historic district,” said Carter. “A large area, almost to the city hall” would be under consideration.
Lammlein said he photographed every structure to be included in the Renaissance Program. There are approximately 300 properties. Numerous pages of paperwork must be filled out in order to meet the July 2 application deadline.
One project that would be considered is the renovation of the Little Blue House, which sits across the alley behind Carter’s property. Carter said there are unlimited uses for it, such as installing an ATM and phones inside of it.
Lammlein said the building, could also be equipped with two handicap-accessible restrooms and a small office for a Main Street manager.
Carter said inclusion in this project would help people in the town and the county to see that “the more you use it (the town), the bigger and better it gets.”

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