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NACOLG shares redevelopment details in community meeting

Redevelopment is getting down to brass tacks in the City of Russellville.

At a public meeting on redevelopment efforts last week, Nathan Willingham laid out a number of prescriptions and recommendations on the revitalization of downtown, identifying both a large “downtown study area” that represents the “you know it when you hit it” downtown area, as well as the smaller “focused development district,” which represents “the economic center of the traditional downtown. It has the architectural features, the historic character of traditional downtown, and it the place where investments are going to pay off the most,” Willingham said.

He highlighted some issues in downtown Russellville, including vacant lots and vacant store fronts, as well as areas that are not well-maintained, and emphasized the importance of “creating an interesting experience for every individual visitor to downtown Russellville.”

He also commended the city for the progress it has made in the past few years and already has in the works for the future. By comparing Google images from 2008 and 2014, Willingham was able to point out numerous functional and aesthetic improvements made thanks to investment in the city streetscapes and infrastructure.

Efforts Willingham recommended were: preserving the historic character of downtown and take advantage of historic preservation tax credits by registering historic areas and structures; developing downtown gateways that will mark the entrances to the established downtown area; installing benches and trash receptacles downtown; and considering providing designated green spaces and landscaping to improve overall aesthetics.

Crucially, Willingham reiterated the importance of a specific downtown organization to coordinate efforts and work with the city.

“The downtown organization can do a lot of things a city can’t do,” Willingham said. “It can rally citizens and merchants around efforts to promote downtown and show support for business recruitment activities – it can even take the lead in business recruitment activities. It can work to help get other individual business owners and citizens to the table so the downtown elements owned by the city work in conjunction with the elements that are owned by the business owners, merchants and citizens at large.”

Last week’s meeting also featured guest Chris Chain, who joined city representatives and Willingham to assess the potential for loft living in downtown Russellville. Chain has developed multiple success loft apartment units and voiced his certainty that downtown loft living would be successful and profitable in Russellville.

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