TML award presentation

Tennessee Municipal League President Wallace Cartwright, who is also the mayor of Shelbyville, presents the organization’s award for Excellence in Economic Revitalization in Memphis last week to Winchester City Administrator Beth Rhoton, center, and City Recorder Teena Waggoner. Winchester received the coveted award for going the extra distance to improve its historic downtown area to promote economic development opportunities.

Winchester has made huge leaps and bounds in revitalizing its downtown area to promote economic opportunities, and the city has just received major accolades from the Tennessee Municipal League for its efforts.

In recognition of the long-term dedication to reinvigorating downtown Winchester and creating new local amenities to enhance the community at large, the TML recently presented Winchester with an award for Excellence in Economic Revitalization —awarded to cities that display a prowess to promote their communities through their own unique assets.

TML is a voluntary, cooperative organization established by the cities and towns of the state for mutual assistance and improvements.

The league’s primary function is to advocate on behalf of city governments. TML works with the Tennessee General Assembly by promoting legislation helpful to cities and opposing legislation harmful to them.

Winchester City Administrator Beth Rhoton explained in a press release what the TML award signifies.

“We were honored to be recognized for our efforts,” she said. “The city has devoted several years to both projects, and although we have been successful in our efforts, we have much work ahead of us.”

Like many communities across Tennessee, city officials in Winchester knew that their city’s downtown is a vital economic engine for the community, and they have dedicated numerous years’ worth of effort to returning vibrancy and new attractions to the area.

In recognition of the long-term dedication to reinvigorating downtown Winchester and creating new local amenities to enhance the community at large, the Tennessee Municipal League said Winchester is very deserving of the award.

Rhoton paid tribute to those involved in the multiple objectives that attracted TML’s attention.

“The city was recognized, but it was certainly a team effort among citizen committees, volunteers, the state of Tennessee, (the Tennessee Department of Transportation), our mayor, (Terry Harrell), current and previous council and city employees, the Tennessee Valley Authority and many other departments and organizations,” she said. “This will be a continuous effort for us and will work in concert with our efforts to promote our area and solicit new businesses.”

City officials, building owners, merchants and citizens in Winchester have long worked together to try and turn back the tide of decline and stagnant economic growth in the city’s downtown.

In 2005, the city was one of only a handful in Tennessee to receive grant funds through Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Courthouse Revitalization Pilot Project Act, which established a tax-rebate zone in downtown areas.

This was followed by the establishment of the Winchester Downtown Program Corp. in 2008, a nonprofit entity whose sole purpose is to focus on recruitment and retention as well as balancing business and community needs downtown.

Winchester obtained Tennessee Main Street Community status in 2014 and has since made numerous accomplishments in reviving the downtown commercial district.

The creation of beloved events like the Downtown Chocolate Walk, the Winchester Wriggle Art and Music Crawl, the Downtown Farm to Table Dinner, the Rising Sun Redbud Music Fest, the Taste of Autumn Fall Festival, the annual Holiday Open House and Merry Little Downtown Christmas bring locals and visitors to downtown Winchester throughout the year.

The creation of a downtown master plan, a design review commission and a downtown overlay district have also contributed to making the downtown area a safe, inviting environment that preserves its historical legacy and looks toward future growth and development.

The city and the Winchester Downtown Program Corp. have partnered with groups like the Franklin County High School Agriculture Department and the Franklin County Garden Club to add to the area’s landscaping.

The city has also received a TDOT Roadscape grant to create an aesthetically pleasing, pedestrian-friendly gateway to downtown and a TDOT Alternative Grant for sidewalks, landscaping, underground utilities and lighting in the downtown district of Winchester.

The city also received a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Tourism Enhancement Grant to construct a downtown amphitheater and numerous Arts Build Communities grants through the Tennessee Arts Commission to enhance downtown and community art projects.

The result is more than $4.2 million in total investment downtown in the past five years, including more than $2.2 million in private contributions and more than $1.9 million in public assistance.

The city also realized a long-term goal in the construction of a city marina on Tims Ford Lake, one of the area’s most valuable natural assets.

Twin Creeks Village Marina and Resort is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in the Winchester area for leisure, recreation and living.

The marina has 168 boat slips, a ship store and full restaurant, a clubhouse, and a pool on 200 acres of private land. The town has seen the development of 60 townhomes and 85 homes in the area.

In the next two years, future development plans in the area include 90 additional lake lots, three swimming pools, six miles of hiking trails, a waterfront amphitheater, 22 Class A motor coach sites, 35 waterfront cottages, a 125-room hotel, three separate event spaces, an additional 200 marina slips, and the construction and sale of 500 total single-family dwellings.

Each year, TML honors cities throughout the state for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs, or department accomplishments.

Other award winners for 2019 include the town of Collierville, for Excellence in Stormwater Management; the city of Johnson City, for Excellence in Fire Services; the town of Livingston, for Excellence in Intergovernmental Relations; the city of Memphis, for Excellence in Green Leadership; the city of Memphis, for Excellence in Progressive Leadership; the city of Morristown, for Excellence in Governance; the city of Shelbyville, for Excellence in Police Services; and the town of Signal Mountain, for Small City Progress.