Danville, Kentucky

Kentucky | 2001 Great American Main Street Award® Winner | Posted: 4/2/2001

Danville is known as the "City of Firsts." Home to the first college and post office west of the Alleghenies, Danville is also the site of Kentucky's first state capital, courthouse, and court trial, and boasts the nation's first state-supported school for the deaf.

Protecting downtown is a way of life for this community. The efforts of the Heart of Danville Main Street Program have ensured that downtown Danville remains a beautiful and vibrant center of business, culture, and entertainment.

In the early 1980s, several downtown buildings needed repairs. The new Danville bypass and regional mall located 30 miles away were draining sales from the downtown merchants and threatening the central business district. But Danville residents worked to make sure downtown didn't meet the same fate as other communities threatened by sprawl.

In 1984, Danville residents turned to the Kentucky Heritage Council for assistance, forming the Heart of Danville, which in 1986 became a Main Street member program. For 15 years, the Heart of Danville has fostered an appreciation for the town's Victorian architecture while creating economic development initiatives to nurture a vibrant central business district.

Downtown Danville is home to city and county government offices, six financial institutions, three investment firms, a regional hospital serving 19 counties, the post office, a private liberal arts college, the county library, a grocery store and a mix of retail and professional services. Since the Main Street program was established, virtually every structure in the central business district has been rehabilitated and new businesses continue to seek spaces on Main Street to open or relocate.

After Centre College, located in the heart of downtown, announced its intention to bid for the 2000 vice presidential debate, the community came together to make it happen. Never before had a community of 16,000 hosted a debate, but Danvillians were certain they could pull it off. The volunteerism and the spirit of camaraderie were remarkable. In preparation for the debate, eight downtown buildings received new coats of paint, awnings, and repairs. The real debate winner was downtown Danville!

The Heart of Danville has since turned its efforts to the eastern edge of town, collaborating with community agencies to keep the post office downtown. That $5 million initiative and a $500,000 streetscape improvement project have spurred renewed interest in the area.

Reinvestment statistics prove Danville's success. In the 1990s alone, $52 million was invested in downtown, 110 new businesses opened and 324 new jobs were created. Today, the vacancy rate is less than 3 percent.

As the "City of Firsts" enters the 21st century, Danville forges onward with the entrepreneurial spirit of its founding fathers by protecting and preserving the heritage of downtown.