Catalyst for downtown: Elizabethtown Renaissance Associates focused on revitalization of Public Square buildings

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Gina Clear

When a group of local businessmen looked at the former Newberry building in downtown Elizabethtown, they saw it as a project for posterity. With an official announcement at Monday’s Elizabethtown City Council meeting, the partnership’s vision can move forward.

Planning Director Ed Poppe announced at the work session that Eliza­bethtown Renaissance Associates is the city’s preferred developer for the project at 100 E. Dixie Ave.

“This is without a doubt, other than the courthouse, the cornerstone to downtown development,” Mayor Edna Berger said following the meeting. “Once that is properly developed, that will be the leader. That’s the one that will set the tone for downtown.”

The city plans to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the development group, which consists of Kevin Addington, Greg Jenkins, Ben LaRue and Carl Swope.

“All of us have an affection for this town,” said Addington, who has two other improvements to store fronts underway on Public Square. “We want to see the downtown redevelopment succeed.”

The agreement allows the parties to work together in the next 120 days to finalize conceptual building plans so they conform to historical standards, finalize financial arrangements and select tenants, Poppe said.

“We want to create a downtown attraction that’s both enduring and attractive,” Addington said about the development. “We want to make it the retail epicenter it once was. It may not look the same.”

The group formed for a number of reasons, Swope said, but they believe the project can be a catalyst to downtown.

“We think the revitalization of downtown Elizabethtown is very important to what our region is trying to do,” he said, which included improving economic development, quality of life and leisure activities. Poppe said in his announcement that the city is pleased with the partnership.

“We are pleased to be working with local investors,” he said.

During public quarterly meetings held by the city and Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council, restaurants and entertainment have been identified as a need in downtown.

The goal of the agreement is to acquire tenants to fill that need, Poppe said.

Swope said the investors believe “we have an underdeveloped restaurant and entertainment sector and, in some degrees, retail.”

The city has paid for public sidewalk improvements, facade and signage grants for downtown businesses, and upgrades to water and sanitary sewer for individual businesses. Swope believes the partnership might help spur others into action in downtown.

“Hopefully, this will set the standard for what we want to see happen in downtown Eliza­bethtown,” he said. “We want to see others step up. Want to see it done with a lot of quality and a lot of character.”

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.

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