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Rockwood lands in redevelopment program

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood’s downtown is the focus of a well-recognized revitalization program.
The community was one of 12 selected this year to participate in the Main Street program affiliate, Tennessee Downtowns.
Tennessee Downtowns is “a community improvements program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts,” according to a news release from Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
The program concentrates on a designated project area in a commercial district that is 50 years or older.
A five-member volunteer steering committee is dedicated to go through the process, and a designated nonprofit organization or municipality hosts the steering committee.
John Evans, a member of the steering committee, said although the program’s focus is downtown, he hopes that what benefits downtown helps everyone.
“I think the program will help Gateway (Avenue) and the rest of Rockwood,” Evans said.
Evans said the bigger aim is to work on economic development and marketing of the area.
“If you look at our downtown, we don’t need a lot of cosmetic. We have wide sidewalks; we have great parking. We have the new kind of retro lights. What we need is help in economic development and help promoting our town to our citizens and the citizens of the county,” Evans said.
Other steering committee members are Bill Anderson, Ann Hiegel, Darryl Meadows and Vicki Watts.
The nonprofit Rockwood Revitalization group was founded to attempt to be a Main Street program, but officials decided to pursue the Tennessee Downtown Program as a less-intensive first step.
“They (Tennessee Downtown Program) are a big help to getting us toward our goal. Our steering committee is going to coordinate at least once a month with the people at the state level,” Evans said.
The program consists of 18 months of training and planning supported by the National Main Street Center.
While it is affiliated with the National Main Street program, it is not as intensive.
Evans said the Main Street program requires staff, and the book of requirements is sizable.
“It is a little different than a Main Street program,” Evans said. “It is about the same but it is a little easier to administer.”
Despite not being as intensive as the National Main Street Program, it was still a big deal to be named as one of the 12.
“We were really proud to be selected,” Evans said.