Harlan community hopes to see "resurgence" in downtown

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HARLAN, Ky. (WYMY) - Hidden away in the mountains, Harlan County is famous for its beautiful scenery, community members in the county are hoping to make their downtown just as breathtaking.

Months ago Harlan received a nearly $600,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission as part of an initiative to bring new life to the downtown Harlan area. One of the centerpieces in the revitalization being the old Belk building on East Central Street in downtown Harlan.

“The downtown area affects the rest of our county, and how do we reinvent our economy to become more successful,” said Carrie Billett, who works as the Belk Project Community Engagement Coordinator.

A series of meetings have been set up to allow community members to come in and share their vision of not only the old Belk building but the county as a whole. Billett said they plan on bringing in consultants who have helped with similar revitalization in hopes of helping Harlan community members find a direction on where to go next.

“While the meeting tomorrow night will focus in part on the Belk building it's with an awareness of the bigger picture,” said Billett. “But we're also looking at how that affects the rest of the block around it, with just the whole community.”

Billett has played a major role in setting up the community meetings. Those who have attended the meetings say the meetings are all about breathing new life into their city.

“I want to see a resurgence with just the whole community,” said Adam Brock, a member of the community.

As a local musician, Brock has a love for music and says he hopes whatever the outcome of the building is, it somehow allows local artists to showcase their skills.

"There are wonderful musicians here there are wonderful artists here just so many people here that don't have a way to express it, to show it off," said Brock.

Other members of the community say along with a growth, they hope to bring back the city’s youthful vigor.

“I'd like to see more rejuvenation in hopes that it'll bring back the young people and those who have lived here before,” said Deron Major, a member of the community.

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