Kentucky Downtowns Attract and Retain Businesses, Visitors
Charming downtowns like this one in Bowling Green mixed with a wealth of cultural and historical attractions all over the state contribute to Kentucky's high quality of life.
Kentucky offers a wealth of attributes – from a low cost of living to natural splendor to a wealth of arts, culture and recreation – that give the Bluegrass State an outstanding quality of life.
An integral part of the state's desirability as a place to live are its efforts to promote and preserve its historic downtowns. Kentucky has been a leader in downtown preservation efforts for more three four decades and provides a range of resources to preserve historic infrastructure through revitalization.
From major urban areas such as Louisville and Lexington to smaller cities and rural communities, Kentucky downtowns offer unique retail, homegrown businesses, cultural distinctiveness and even residential options.
Frankfort, Kentucky's capital city, is home to a bustling downtown that attracts residents and newcomers alike thanks to its array of attractions.
Visitors can enjoy historic aspects such as the Kentucky Military History Museum and the Old State Capitol, which was the state's capitol building from 1830 to 1910. Other historic attractions include the Buffalo Trace Distillery, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History and the Capital City Museum.
The city's downtown also features the Grand Theatre. Built in 1911, the venue was originally a 135-seat vaudeville house; today, after various renovations, the theater can accommodate as many as 428 individuals and offers both performing and visual arts.
“There's a good energy here right now,” says Brittain Skinner, executive director of Downtown Frankfort Inc. “Everyone is very excited.”
Elizabethtown in Growth Mode
Elizabethtown's downtown saw major growth in 2011, with 60 businesses setting up shop in the district.
“Our downtown is a mix of retailers, offices and restaurants,” says Heath Seymour, executive director of the Elizabethtown Heritage Council. “It's a great location because we're close to the interstate and the Western Kentucky Parkway; we get a lot of traffic.”
The city's downtown also offers historic attractions including the Hardin County History Museum, where visitors can learn more about how the Civil War impacted the area. Another downtown museum, the Brown-Pusey House, was built in 1825 and includes a genealogical library and an outdoor garden.
Those seeking entertainment can find it downtown, too: The State Theater, built in 1942, features classic movies, concerts, comedy shows and theatrical performances.
Paducah Creates Renaissance
After Paducah's Kentucky Oaks Mall opened in 1983, the city's downtown began to lose its appeal. However, thanks to some hard work by local leaders, that has changed.
“The leaders in the community decided to really invest in the area,” says Lisa Mullins Thompson, executive director of the Paducah Renaissance Alliance. “It was a goal to help restore and revive the historic district.”
Today, Paducah's downtown is thriving with museums, independent retailers, restaurants and entertainment options. It also includes the LowerTown Arts District, which is home to several galleries and studios.
Popular in Pikeville
Eastern Kentucky's Pikeville is also home to a popular downtown that has seen an increase in activity.
To see all the area has to offer, visitors can enjoy the Historic Downtown Pikeville Walking Tour. The self-guided tour spans two miles and includes more than 50 historic buildings and homes, and five districts.
Additionally, Pikeville's downtown features the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center, which seats 7,000 individuals and has hosted Tim McGraw, Martina McBride and other famous acts.
Located in the heart of the city, Bowling Green's downtown district features both businesses and events that keep the area fresh and flourishing.
The district is anchored by Fountain Square Park, which was home to the city's courthouse during the 19th century. Today, it is downtown's focal point and is surrounded by various restored and renovated structures including the popular Capitol Arts Theatre.
Fountain Square Park also serves as one of the sites where Concerts in the Park takes place, drawing more than 25,000 attendees. Organized and offered by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority of Bowling Green, spectators can enjoy live music during the months of June, July and August each year.