BY DAVID FISHER
The City of Dresden was recently notified that it has been awarded a $100,000 Downtown Improvement Grant for improvements to building facades and outdoor public spaces. This is the maximum amount awarded to any one city in this year’s downtown improvement grant program.
On Nov. 22, 2022, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced Dresden is one of 16 Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtowns communities that are recipients of Downtown Improvement Grants.
A total of $1 million in Rural Economic Opportunity funds is being awarded in amounts up to $100,000 per community to improve structures in Tennessee downtowns and Main Street communities. Grants were awarded to organizations that illustrated the need for improvements and the ability to execute effective design plans.
Dresden City Recorder Jennifer Branscum said the funds may be used to improve the appearance of downtown businesses. This includes upgrading: doors and windows, awnings, building facades, wayfinding signage, gateways, streetscapes, sod improvements, green spaces and painting.
“We will take applications from downtown property owners, once the contract is signed, which is supposed to be sometime in January,” Branscum said. She noted the grant funding must be spent within two years, or any remaining funds will be lost.
According to a Facebook entry in “The Weakley Times”, former Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn expressed the city’s appreciation for the grant that will enable the city to make improvements to the downtown area of the city.
Washburn said that this is the second downtown improvement grant to be received by the city during his tenure in office. The first grant was used to assist business owners to improve the appearance of their buildings.
“It was especially gratifying that the grant award was announced on my last full day serving as mayor of Dresden,” Washburn said.
“When I came into office eight years ago, one of my goals was to improve the looks of our downtown area,” he noted. “Prior to the tornado, we had been successful in achieving that goal to a large extent … at least until the tornado destroyed a significant portion of the downtown area.”
Washburn said he believes that Dresden will continue to see downtown improvements in the future and that he believes other economic initiatives during his tenure in office will bear fruit in the near future.
“Downtown districts and main streets are central to Tennessee’s economic growth and community development,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I congratulate each grant recipient for receiving funds to support local revitalization, bolster our economy and increase tourism across the state.”
“At TNECD, we strive to provide the communities across our state with the tools and resources needed to ensure economic success,” said Commissioner McWhorter. “Through the latest round of Downtown Improvement Grants, the leaders in these 16 communities are encouraging job and business growth in their commercial districts, and we look forward to seeing the prosperity that will follow these projects.”
“Congratulations to the 16 communities receiving funding through this round of Downtown Improvement Grants,” said TNECD Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development Brooxie Carlton. “We are excited to see the work that will be done as each city and town invests in facade improvements and other projects to enhance their downtown districts, which are the focal point for so many of Tennessee’s communities.”
To be eligible for a Downtown Improvement Grant, communities had to submit applications and be a designated Tennessee Downtowns or Tennessee Main Street community.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth.