Historically, downtown Lebanon was the economic driver of the community, home to a number of offices and shops. Now, most employers, with the exception of county government and financial institutions, and many shopping destinations are elsewhere in the City, and downtown is transitioning into an arts, culture, and entertainment destination. Fully realizing this walkable, arts and entertainment district can help attract and retain families and talented professionals, as well as the companies looking to hire them.
The City’s commitment to the downtown area is evident with all the recent investments made on and around the square, including the extension of the Big 4 trail from the west side of the City into downtown. Lebanon should continue to implement the recommendations of the 2017 Downtown Action Plan as resources become available. This includes additional roadway and streetscape improvements to:
- Washington Street
- Lebanon Street
- Main Street
- Meridian Street
- East Street
Additionally, a civic redevelopment area and downtown parking garage are recommended. The parking structure should be within a block or two of the courthouse square to be convenient for those businesses. South of the square is likely most beneficial so that it may also serve proposed redevelopment along S Lebanon Street. The civic redevelopment area is comprised of three square blocks between Superior Street to the north, East Street to the east, Elm Street to the south, and West Street to the west. City Hall anchors the east block, while the other two blocks reflect auto-oriented uses and open space. The Downtown Action Plan envisioned a new public facility to anchor the west block with a civic plaza and open space on the center block. This civic redevelopment area would then serve as a gateway into the downtown area along the SR 39/Lebanon Street corridor.
The Downtown Action Plan identified six key redevelopment sites. Five of these sites include existing structures; the sixth site is the surface parking lot on the southwest corner of Main and Lebanon streets. The catalyst building sites include:
- Net-Tec Building
- Heflin / Cragun Building
- Patrick’s / Truitt’s Building
- Merle Norman / Samson Leather Building
- Montgomery Ward Building
These buildings and sites were selected because of their potential to generate additional private investment, preserve historic assets, and improve the appearance of downtown streetscapes. More details about the potential of each site or structure can be found in the Downtown Action Plan. As these properties are revitalized, more sites should be evaluated and added to the key property list.
Another important component to better activating the downtown is to increase the number of people living downtown in lofts and apartments. This will not only fill the underutilized upper-story floors of many buildings, it will also create around-the-clock customers for downtown restaurants, shops and services. It is important to remove potential roadblocks to residential development in the downtown, in addition to creating incentives to speed up revitalization efforts, entice new developers, and create permanent downtown residents. While many residential uses are permitted in the Central Business (CB) district, parking minimums and other development standards may be limiting the construction of or conversion to new dwelling units. Potential development incentives could include reduced permitting or utility connection fees, a revolving loan fund to assist property owners in building out upper-story apartments, or using TIF funds for parking or stormwater improvements that benefit the district.