October 14, 2009

Inclement weather may have led to a few changes in the check presentation to fund Phase II of Downtown Dyersburg’s revitalization on Friday morning, but nothing could dampen the spirits of city, county and state officials gathering to move ahead with efforts to restore the city’s historic downtown district.

A rainy autumn morning caused a delay in Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely’s flight out of Nashville causing him to miss the event. The weather also moved the presentation from the outside sidewalk on the northeast corner of Veterans’ Square to the foyer of the Lannom Center.

TDOT Regional Director Chuck Rychen filled in for Nicely in awarding a check for $884,742 to local officials. The money will be used to fund Phase II of the Dyersburg Downtown and Dyer County Courthouse Square Enhancement Project. Several state officials were also on hand for the presentation.

Phase I, which received enhancement funds in 2008, focused on the sidewalks and streetscape on the Courthouse side of the square. Officials are expecting construction to begin on the first phase as soon as possible.

Phase II of the project will address sidewalk, crosswalk, curb and gutter improvements along the merchant’s side of the square on East Market Street, North Main Avenue, South Mill Avenue and Court Street.

In addition, street lighting that is an exact replica of the lighting around the Dyersburg Courthouse Square during the 1920s and 1930s will be added. Other streetscaping improvements include benches, planters and trashcans to complement the streetlights. The new lighting will provide a safer walking environment for pedestrians and will also showcase the historic charm of the city.

The new lighting will feature the more natural, whiter light of metal halide, with a color that more closely resembles natural light.

During construction, Dyersburg Electric System will utilize the opportunity to install long-needed underground wiring and remove overhead wires from view.

“This project is an important next step in providing safe pedestrian access to the historic district of downtown Dyersburg and its area businesses,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen in a press release concerning the grant. “I’m pleased the state of Tennessee could help with the next phase of this effort.”

The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by TDOT.

“Through the Transportation Enhancement Grant Program, TDOT has helped fund approximately $205 million in transportation related projects,” said Nicely in the press release. “The program was established by Congress in the early 1990s to fund activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system.”

“These improvements will (make downtown) safer,” said Rychen at Friday’s presentation. “And street lights that are an exact replica of street lighting in the ’20s and ’30s will be installed to highlight the history of the Courthouse. This is a great example of a county working together. I am honored on behalf of the commissioner to present this check.”

State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, State Sen. Mark Norris and State Rep. Judy Barker joined the celebration at the Lannom Center.

“Downtowns are so important,” said State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh. “When industry came to our community years ago, all they wanted was a labor force who would work cheaper. Now, as you know, it’s not that way. It’s global. Everything works together. And the hub of our community is our downtown. I’m committed to (helping the downtowns in West Tennessee). State Sen. Mark Norris is committed to it and State Rep. Judy Barker is committed to it. And we are so happy to be a part of it.”

“Downtown areas always hold special memories for those returning to the area,” said Barker. “That’s why we’ve got to keep our downtown areas attractive. This grant is so vital – not only for those who return, but for those who remain.”

“Two years ago, we sat down for the first time in the conference room right behind us,” said Norris, pointing to the door leading to the Chamber offices. “I’d like to commend not only the Chamber, but the people of Dyersburg and Dyer County for making this possible.”

“I’d like to thank our representatives,” said Dyersburg Mayor John Holden. “Thank you for this as we continue to improve the quality of life in Dyersburg and Dyer County. I’d also like to recognize the Chamber. They have a really good relationship with the city and the county.”

“This started 12 years ago,” said Downtown Development Association President Joe Yates. “We had 15 vacant buildings (in the downtown area) when we started, but there won’t be an improvement (more dramatic) for the community to see than this downtown revitalization. (Thank you for your help as we) continue this move to make downtown a more viable place.”

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