Castle Main Street Program
development is director's focus
says love of town got her involved
Helen E. McKinney
NEW CASTLE, Ky. (July 2004) Karen Bess Smith wears
many hats. Her concern for New Castle, Ky.s fate has thrown her
into the position of part-time Main Street Program manager.
Smith, 48, who farms with her husband in Trimble County, is involved
in Louisvilles Glassworks project (an extension of the Farmers
Market), and has her own landscaping business, Ground Works Design.
As Main Street manager, she can incorporate her other job experiences
into this job to develop the economic growth and aesthetic qualities
of the community.
by Helen E. McKinney
Smith is New Castle's new Main Street director.
As Main Street manager, she is involved in organizing
projects, economic development, historic preservation and promoting
and marketing New Castle. A native of Louisville, Smith said she has
always loved New Castle. She is responsible for helping
local businesses succeed and attracting new businesses to the area.
The Kentucky Main Street Program is an extension of the Kentucky Heritage
Council, overseen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The
trust is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting
the irreplaceable through leadership and education. This year marks
the 25th anniversary of the Kentucky Main Street Program, making it
the oldest statewide program in the United States.
While in college, Smiths career choice was influenced by her creative
writing teacher, Wendell Berry. She had been headed to New York as a
dancer, but Berrys reading of his work, The Unsettling of
America, had a profound effect on her. It changed my whole
mind about what to do with my life, she said.
As a graduate of Centre College, Smith received her masters degree
in Landscape Planning and Design. She worked for the city of Louisville
as a consultant under Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramsons first
term in the mid-1980s. She learned how to get things done in a large
city, and she brings this knowledge to New Castle to incorporate it
into the citys existing resources.
Smith said she loved her role as Assistant Director for Operation Brightside.
She was responsible for coordinating efforts to develop programs and
policies on how to deal with public rights of way, enhancement of the
most visible spaces in a city such as downtown parks, maintaining exit
ramps and cleaning up vacant city lots. Prior to 1986, there was no
recycling program in the school system and no landfill space. She helped
rectify this problem and believed that if recycling habits were begun
in schools, children would naturally want to conserve their environment.
One of her short-term goals for New Castle is to enable the city to
become more self reliant as a community. She plans to meet residents
and learn from local merchants and property owners. I want to
know what people want (for their community), Smith said. The community
needs to make full use of the space we already have.
Smith plans to make use of the many empty second floor spaces found
in most Main Street buildings. Marty Stahl, a member of the committee
that chose Smith for the position, agrees with this idea. We have
many beautiful buildings with second floors that we need to take advantage
of, said Stahl.
Smith attended a quarterly Kentucky Main Street training session on
June 9-11 in Paducah, Ky., with Eminence Tomorrow Director, Mary Jane
Yates. Yates said participants toured many downtown areas to view first
hand the citys revitalization efforts in the areas of fund raising,
parking and an artist relocation program. Paducah has also instituted
an extensive upper floor-housing program, said Yates. The Main Street
Program enables the downtown area to accomplish a great number of things
in terms of revitalization, she said.
Stahl said Smith is organized and intelligent, and has good ideas and
contacts. Ruth Ann Mills Moore was the citys first part-time Main
Street manager, but she resigned after six months.
Yates served as interim manager until Smith was hired.
Organizing all of the information she receives is Smiths biggest
job, said Stahl. Smith has one year to work toward her certification
as a Main Street Manager. Were hoping for big things,
The Main Street philosophy is that buildings, cultures, businesses and
a towns layout go hand-in-hand with the small town idea, and are
qualities that need to be preserved. This concept can be thought of
in the sense that these qualities are like a layer of topsoil that we
need to preserve, said Smith. In nourishing the topsoil, plants (or
cities like New Castle) can grow to fruition and expand economically.
Stahl compared New Castle to La Grange. There is a historical section
of Main Street still intact and Stahl believes the communitys
heritage deserves preservation. Its like a family heritage,
but a bigger step. New Castle is as it was 100 years ago, she
Contact Karen Bes Smith at (502) 845-0562. For more information
on the Main Street Program, visit: www.nationaltrust.org.
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