Better Block Middlesborough to transform downtown area

Special to the Daily News

October 23, 2013

Volunteers from Middlesboro, throughout Kentucky, and several other states will gather together and take part in Better Block Middlesboro Friday through Sunday.

This event will transform a one block area through several dozen low-cost interventions over a 48-hour period to demonstrate the possibility of long-term change.

“We’re thrilled by the response we’ve gotten from local folks and to be hosting leaders from Kentucky and several other states,” said Discover Downtown Middlesboro (DDM) President Keith Nagle. “Their collective ideas, energy and enthusiasm have the power to bring about the change we’ve long desired for our community.”

Mike Lydon, from Street Plans Collaborative based in Miami and New York, will be facilitating.

Lydon is the author of the Tactical Urbanism Manual and has an upcoming book planned on the subject. He also co-authored The Smart Growth Manual with noted urbanists Andres Duany and Jeff Speck in 2009.

Other special guests on hand and participating in the event will include Della Rucker, author of The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help, Cincinnati, Ohio; Joe Clabes, president, The Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative, Lexington; Kitty Dougoud, Kentucky Main Street Program director, Kentucky Heritage Council, Frankfort; Matt Tomasulo, founder, Walk [Your City], Raleigh, N.C; Tad Long, Kentucky League of Cities, Lexington.

Faculty and students from Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, Lincoln Memorial University and the University of Kentucky have taken an active role in planning for the event.

Several area churches and community organizations have provided assistance too.

Pop-up shops will go in vacant buildings. Two pop-up parks will go on vacant lots. The Children’s Exploration center will open at 129 South 20th Street and the Park Theater will reopen after being closed for 25 years. “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be shown on Saturday at 8 p.m.

At the Exploration Center young children and their caregivers are welcome to explore, learn and create. The Exploration Center will focus on free, imaginative play to help encourage vital educational skills like reading, counting and learning shapes and colors. Organizers hope for this to continue well after the initial Better Block event.

Work will be done to make the downtown a better place for walking and cycling.

A pilot walk between the Town of Cumberland Gap, through the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and then along the Little Yellow Creek and Canal Walk will help in the bid to become a Kentucky Trail Town. Hikers will depart from the Iron Furnace in Cumberland Gap at 1 p.m. on Saturday and arrive in Middlesborough a few hours later.

Volunteers are still being sought to participate in the event.

For a complete list of events and to find a way to participate, please visit downtownmiddlesboro.org or call (606) 248-6155.

The volunteer check-in table will be beneath the marquee of the Park Theater on south 20th Street during the event. All volunteers will receive a Better Block Middlesborough T-shirt to show appreciation for their efforts.

The Better Block Middlesborough project won the national Successful Communities Contest hosted by CommunityMatters in September. The $500 prize that Middlesborough won was used to attract an additional $10,000 through the Power2Give.org campaign. The Fund for the Arts and Humana Foundation matched every local dollar raised with an additional $5,000.