Reviving La Grange

City earns Silver status
in Renaissance Kentucky

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (November 2002) – Renaissance Kentucky, an initiative started about six years ago by Gov. Paul Patton to help Kentucky cities revitalize their downtowns, recently awarded La Grange a silver level designation.
According to the 2002 program guide, “This initiative brings together communities and resources necessary to revitalize and restore Kentucky’s downtowns through a focused approach in obtaining resources.” The program, divided into gold, silver and bronze phases, awards cities funding opportunities according to the level of achievement in developing a downtown initiative, with gold being the highest level.
At the silver level, La Grange will be eligible for a number of grant opportunities supported by agencies involved in the program, said program director Penny Young.

La Grange Main Street

Main Street in La Grange, Ky.

The Renaissance program is supported by an alliance of agencies, including Kentucky Housing Corporation, Fannie Mae, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, Kentucky Department for Local Government, Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The alliance puts together criteria for communities applying to the program and assists them in securing funds to achieve their initiatives.
Young said that extensive planning and research must occur at the local level for communities wishing to be involved in the program. “La Grange did a particularly good job in their application,” she said.
La Grange had already completed much of the foundational work, such as defining leadership and formulating a plan, before applying to the program. This helped them achieve the silver level.
In order to prepare for application to the program, La Grange Mayor Nancy Steele appointed a nine-member committee to compile information and determine what focus the city would take in the application. The city also hired the consulting firm of Mayes, Sudderth and Etheredge Inc. to assist with the application process.
The committee, comprised of Karen Eldridge, Linda Foster, Bill Lammlein, Anita Fritz, Joe Davenport, Elsie Carter, Joe Schoenbaechler, Zella Smith and Jackie Tronzo, gathered information that was then compiled by the consultants and put into the application. The committee also held a public meeting to allow input from individuals or businesses interested in the project, particularly those within the Renaissance area.
That area is comprised of 200 structures, both commercial and residential, within downtown La Grange.
Now that La Grange has been accepted into the program, the real work begins, according to Eldridge, owner of Karen’s Book Barn on Main St. The committee listed five projects on its application that members will now have five years to complete. Included in those five projects are streetscape improvements, such as gutters, utility poles, and street signs, public transportation concerns and recreational opportunities.
The committee must also hire a Main Street coordinator who will help accomplish the goals of the program, including promotion and coordination of downtown festivals, Eldridge said. The Renaissance Committee plans to meet again this month to decide which project to tackle first and to formulate a plan.

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