Downtown Revitalization in the Promise Zone

Within the Southeastern Kentucky Highland Promise Zone are a variety of small towns, each with their own unique downtown that has been shaped by history, geography, and changing economic tides. Since 2016, the Community Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) has been working within many of these communities to promote economic diversification through downtown revitalization. One core offering of CEDIK is strategic planning. For rural communities, strategic planning allows them to work towards a unified vision of economic revitalization of downtowns and make choices that support outcomes. However, work in the field revealed that many towns had been through several strategic planning processes and participants often voiced frustration with implementation. This paper has the goal of supporting downtowns to implement key objectives by understanding the historic patterns of strategic planning across downtowns. The objective is to identify key areas of support needed by downtowns in order to implement their plans and reach their goals. In this study, the author analyzed over 20 downtown plans for towns across the Promise Zone. Thematic Analsysis reveals the main themes that have emerged across towns, as well as ideas that cluster in specific towns. Implications for downtown revitalization work will be considered with a focus on implementation support.