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Historic Lebanon receives national Main Street honor

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 21, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Historic Lebanon was recently designated as an accredited Main Street America program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. 

Each year, the National Main Street Center and its coordinating program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach.

“It is a great honor to recognize this year’s 828 nationally Accredited Main Street America programs for their outstanding work to transform downtown and neighborhood commercial districts,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Main Streets are the heart of our communities, and the work they do to create quality public spaces, catalyze local entrepreneurship, and support downtown housing is more important than ever. Across the county, Main Street America programs truly strengthen the economic, social and cultural fabric of their entire communities.”

The organization’s performance is annually evaluated by the Tennessee Main Street program, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet 10 performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

Lebanon’s Main Street area, which is centered on the historic Public Square, saw more than $1.5 million in local investments for 2016. It included both public and private projects such as historic building rehabs, maintenance and infrastructure improvements.

Historic Lebanon executive director Kim Parks said she is especially proud of is the 892 volunteer hours tallied in the past year. 

“We would not be able to provide our annual programming and the leadership toward using historic preservation for positive economic impact without our board members, volunteers, friends of Historic Lebanon and our annual sponsors, which are Ligon and Bobo Funeral Home, Main Street Property Management, THW Insurance, Law Office of C. Tracey Parks, Wilson Bank & Trust, Thackston Family Foundation and CedarStone Bank,” said Parks.

Historic Lebanon is a nonprofit with the mission to revitalize Lebanon’s Public Square and surrounding neighborhoods. The focus is to preserve the historic buildings, increase tourism, entice more entrepreneurs and create a sense of place in the historic downtown core. The organization helps owners use the historic properties in new ways to create a vibrant area with restaurants, retail-office spaces and urban living. Another goal of the Historic Lebanon Main Street program is a more walkable downtown with public green spaces, a direct connection to the Music City Star commuter train station with a walking trail and the installation of public art. Historic Lebanon believes these improvements will create a gathering place for locals, as well as increase tourism to the historic downtown.

“Main Street accreditation is vital to the city’s continued economic growth and sustainability and it’s always exciting to see Historic Lebanon continue to move forward as they are preserving our past,” said Sarah Haston, Lebanon economic development director.

Educating the public on Lebanon’s rich history is another part of the nonprofit’s mission. The organization has produced a historic driving tour booklet and two books on local history. Historic Lebanon is also in charge of the local Tennessee Main Street program. A real advantage of Main Street communities is the program’s strength in achieving economic vitality. Studies show for every $1 invested in a historic downtown, there is a $36 return. This return on investment is achieved by using the four points of the Main Street program, design, organization, promotion and economic vitality to present the Lebanon Square in its best light. The four elements come together to create positive economic progress for the community.

In the past six months, Historic Lebanon has received two major grants from the Tennessee Main Street program. First, is a fac╠žade improvement grant for historic properties on the square, and the second is a Tennessee Main Street entrepreneur grant to create an entrepreneur center with partners Cumberland University and the city.

“Simply put, Historic Lebanon strives to enhance Lebanon’s quality of life and to increase its profile as a great small town,” said Parks.

Main Street America has helped revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. It is currently a network of more than 1,000 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. 

Since 1980, communities participating in the program have leveraged more than $71.35 billion in new public and private investment, generated 583,869 net new jobs and 131,974 net new businesses and rehabilitated more than 267,800 buildings. 

Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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