City Discusses Downtown Harlan Incentives

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Harlan City Council addressed the future of downtown Harlan during a recent meeting discussing possible building upgrades and incentives.
Harlan City Mayor Joe Meadors brought the topic up to the panel.

“We have Cole Raines with us from One Harlan County,” Meadors said. “He’s been working with us on trying to get some incentives to help incentivize some of the downtown business owners to clean up their properties and invest some money back in them.”

Meadors stated he is optimistic about the downtown Harlan area.

“I think in the next six months, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of progress in some of these old structures,” Meadors said. “We’re going to have to start going after some of these commercial building owners who have let their buildings fall into disrepair. We’re going to insist that they make necessary repairs.”

According to Meadors, there are repairs and improvements in progress on multiple properties throughout the downtown area, including the former locations of Cumberland Jewelry and Pawn, Newberry’s and Belks.

Raines gave the panel an update on some downtown structures.

“The Four Season’s building, One Harlan County is working with Harlan 2020 on that,” Raines said. “The county is providing some financial assistance on fixing up the Four Season’s building, What we’re looking at doing there is kind of an artisan center.”

Raines explained the idea is to include space for crafts such as pottery as well as some retail space.

“With the old Newberry’s space, we’re really hoping to do something like what Whitesburg has done,” Raines said. “They leave the façade up and do some green space for a seating area. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ll get it cleaned up first and then move forward from there.”

Meadors mentioned that since the structure is owned by a private non-profit foundation, the city can utilize inmates to perform some cleaning work.

“I will mention there is another building…not in the immediate downtown area that was purchased,” Meadors said. “There’s a vacant lot and a two and a half story concrete block building that was purchased and they are going to put in a climate controlled storage (facility).”

Meadors said the climate controlled storage facility would include approximately 16 separate storage units.

“It will be an improvement on what was there,” Meadors said.

Meadors said no ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding has been used so far.

“We got $197,000 last year, and haven’t used a cent of it,” Meadors said. “We’ll get the other have of it sometime in June or July of this year.”

Meadors said the city hopes to include sidewalk work and paving.

“This may be a once in a lifetime shot, so we have to be very careful how we spend the money,” Meadors said. “But I also want to use a little of that money to help downtown.”

Meadors mentioned the possibility of using ARPA funds for incentives.

“I do want to use some of that (ARPA) as an incentive,” Meadors said. “We’re not going to give anybody any money as an incentive until they’ve put their own in. They have to have skin in the game. They have to put their own money in first.”

Meadors said the proposed incentive packages should be ready for the council to review at the next council meeting.