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Newport is revitalizing its downtown, aiming to change negative perception of city

Change started happening when the city introduced a façade grant program in 2015.

NEWPORT, Tenn. — The city of Newport is revitalizing its downtown area in hopes to boost the economy and encourage tourism.

The Cocke County seat is focusing heavily on the area of East Broadway on Highway 25/70.

Business owners old and new in downtown Newport will tell you the downtown area hasn't always been inviting. In fact, it's been in the last few years that businesses have started to pop up and start a revitalization process.

Shannon Myers is the owner of East Tennessee Coffee Company. She took a chance when she opened her shop in downtown Newport back in 2016.

"There's so many other cities that have that downtown appeal and we didn't have that," Myers admitted.

Since then, she's watched the buildings around her transform and take shape with new businesses.

"A lot of business owners have worked hard to try to, you know, draw people in and make it a place that you want to visit," Myers explained.

Change started happening when the city introduced a façade grant program in 2015.

"We reimburse building owners up to $1000 for improvements on their façades and their businesses and property downtown," Newport Mayor Roland Dykes III said.

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The grant is through the efforts of the "Keep Cocke County Beautiful" program.

The revitalization is part of the city's plan to change the perception of Newport.

"It's been a very negative perception for a long time and I'm glad to see that it's finally kind of taking a slow turn going in the other direction," Dykes noted.

With that, boutiques like Fruit Jar Alley felt like they got the greenlight to invest back in the city where they grew up.

Eric "Digger" Manes opened the shop with his wife Allison a couple of years ago.

"If we boost our economy by having more retail presence, then that makes it more desirable for industry to come in here," Manes said.

They hope the improvements will encourage the people passing through to stop and take in the area.

"And hopefully it's gonna generate a little more interest in this downtown," Manes noted.

The city's downtown master plan aims to make the area more walkable and improve historic sites. Leaders said more grants and projects are on the horizon.

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