(WBIR - Middlesboro) A town surrounded by the hills of Appalachia wants to revitalize its downtown.
The group "Discover Downtown Middlesboro, Inc." wants to restore more than 200 buildings in the city's center. During the early 1900's, Middlesboro was a bustling center of commerce. However, as time progressed and jobs moved out, downtown declined.
Isaac Kremer works as the executive director of Discover Downtown Middlesboro, Inc. He said property restoration is more cost-effective than building new structures downtown.
"By fixing these up over time, we feel we can generate economic development, create jobs and really create a ripple effect for the whole region," he said.
Kremer said his group has received more than $40,000 in grants for its efforts and has another $200,000 worth of grants under review.
Overall, he said his group estimates it will take more than $20 million to fix all of the buildings. Although Kremer expects the process will likely take some time, he is still optimistic it will work.
He pointed out that 12 blocks of buildings in downtown Middlesboro are eligible to receive help from the state and federal governments.
"All of the properties in that district are eligible for a 20-percent federal rehabilitation tax credit and a 20-percent state commercial tax credit for the owners as they go about rehabilitating those structures," Kremer said.
He said Middlesboro has already started to see progress too. Kremer said the vacancy rate of downtown buildings used to hover around 20 percent, now it's around 16 percent.
In October, Discover Downtown Middlesboro, Inc. will also hold a "Better Block Tactical Urbanism Event". In 48 hours, with 1,000 dollars or less, the group plans to fix and clean up parts of downtown.