Kevin Addington: Downtown Revitalization
Updated: Jan 28
Downtown ETown holds a special place in my heart. I missed out on the old Elizabethtown, the Elizabethtown before Vibe, Bourbon Barrel Tavern, all of the downtown boutiques and businesses. Confession: I am glad I missed out and honestly cannot imagine living here + being new to this area before downtown grew. Something you may not know is that Elizabethtown Lifestyle Magazine was born at Vibe Coffee Shop over countless hours, meetings and double espressos. Olivia at Denizen back when it was on Poplar was the first person I met in town to be kind to me and strike up a conversation back in 2017; right then I knew that ETown was secretly cool. We’ve been cheered on by Stacy at the Heritage Council (and BBT) since Day 1 of this magazine dream. Kevin Addington offered some insight at the most random Vibe meeting right before the magazine launch was announced. Here he shares about downtown and the growth we have seen and growth that is yet to come. Read on and understand why I couldn't be more excited for the future of this area and have a peek at the newly renovated Haycraft Complex. Photos by Morgan Worley Photography.
Local business developer, owner of Addington Transportation Inc. and the Haycraft District complex, Kevin Addington:
One who has not visited downtown Elizabethtown in a few years may find some welcoming changes have taken place. In medical terms, you could say our urban inner city has undergone a much needed “facelift.”
As you stroll down any of the streets leading to our town square, you’ll find several new businesses have eagerly opened their doors to a variety of choices in clothing, dining, human services and libations. And guess what? There’s more on the way. After a successful effort to serve alcohol was achieved a few years ago, it allowed a few individuals to take a risk with their time and effort to start a revitalization that has slowly crept it’s way through our streets to produce some wonderful shops and events that bring patrons eager to see what our community has to offer.
Some may not realize it, but our downtown footprint really isn’t that big. It’s very walkable and allows events such as the BBQ, Blues & Bikes Festival and Cruisin’ the Heartland to operate in a compacted area where outside vendors can set up and sell alongside our established storefronts.
The parades and music festivals that are coordinated by the combined efforts of the city, the Heritage Council and volunteer clubs allow us to enjoy a variety of entertainment, history appreciation and holiday celebrations.
All of these activities require enormous preparation and volunteers from our community. The enthusiasm from our city leaders is paramount and evident as we continue to cultivate new ways of engaging our youth and paying tribute to our heritage.
Since becoming involved with the changes going on, I’ve been asked several times why I chose to become engaged in the movement. The motivation behind revitalizing downtown was two-fold for me. To take a vacant building and give it a second or third chance at life fulfills me internally. Sure, we can greenfield and start from scratch with all new, but what “turns my crank” if you will, is to repurpose space with updated, safer infrastructure (plumbing, electrical, and HVAC) alongside handicap accessible convenience. I want to breathe life into a well-used structure to where the appearance generally remains recognizable, but the operations are user-friendly and dependable.
"To take a vacant building and give it a second or third chance at life fulfills me internally. Sure, we can greenfield and start from scratch with all new, but what “turns my crank” if you will, is to repurpose space with updated, safer infrastructure alongside handicap accessible convenience. I want to breathe life into a well-used structure to where the appearance generally remains recognizable, but the operations are user-friendly and dependable."
We can also turn back the clock and return the building to a likeness of its origin much like the one I just completed in the newly renovated area of the Haycraft District just over the tracks on east Dixie. This sometimes overlooked community provides comfortable, safe and affordable living to its close-knit inhabitants.
My mother was an antique dealer, and I learned so much from her with regards to preservation and historical appreciation. If we do not respect the design and craftsmanship of our past, how can we expect the same from those who follow us? Modernizing a city doesn’t mean only building new; it also means taking something you already have and making it come alive again. When we restore the older and forgotten buildings, we bring our community closer to its beginnings. We can keep the history of our town alive by also embracing a modern and current way of life. We do so by revamping what has always been there.
The second reason behind my motivation is giving opportunities for individuals who want to open their own business. Providing up-to-date, affordable and attractive spaces for someone to open a storefront only fuels me to do more.
My benefit comes from watching a fledgling business come into one of my buildings, witnessing the smiles of the patrons as they leave and seeing the pride on the faces of the business owners as they watch their dreams come to fruition. I find much gratification in being a part of that.
The goal was to make our downtown more appealing: Appealing to out-of-towners to come and visit, appealing to our community to have local businesses to frequent, and appealing to those who are ready to open up their own business.
You may ask, “how can I be a part of this new energy and effort? That’s easy! You can start by spending locally and patronizing these shops who welcome you. Encourage others to do the same or invest yourself in volunteering with festivities and organizing. Share your suggestions with city leaders, the Heritage Council, or even better open your own store and share the enthusiasm that spreads the pride across our wonderful community.
The downtown is the heartbeat of any city, it’s the congregation of one’s community that allows everyone to feel part of something, a sense of unity, and that’s why it is important to restore our downtown.
— Kevin Addington
Thank you so much for tuning in. Follow along as we cover the growth in ETown on Facebook and Instagram. As always, we are so grateful to have you here at Elizabethtown Lifestyle! Stay tuned for more posts on local businesses and events.