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[Paris] Downtown rebounds with renovations, businesses

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Paris abounds with renovation, new businesses

By Beverly Fortune, Herald-Leader [Lexington], June 19, 2007

Downtown Paris is coming back to life. Victorian buildings are being renovated and restored; vinyl paneling facades that were installed in the 1970s to modernize the storefronts are being taken down; new streetlights and sidewalks are adding to a new, clean look. Three years ago, the number of businesses along Main Street were less than 12. Today, there are very few buildings that are empty. First floor tenants are all but leased out, and second floors are being converted into offices. There are now seven locally owned restaurants, with two more scheduled to open this summer. Live music is now playing at some, and a newer Paris-Bourbon County Farmers Market operates a year-round store. In 2004, there were four antique shops, but now there are thirteen. The town also now boasts a fenced dog park, and the first part of a three-mile walking path.

Five years ago, according to Bluegrass Tomorrow, Paris was the 'least changed' of any central Kentucky town of the last 100 years. They had the same amount of people in 2000 as they did in 1900 -- 9,000. While the population has increased just slightly over 9,000 today, the 'civic energy level' has increased.

Credits can go towards the rebuilt 12.5-mile Paris Pike, which opened in 2003. It is considered one of the most scenic highways in the United States -- and much safer. It was mired in controversy, and some feared that sprawl would overtake Paris -- but in 2006, only 38 house lots were platted. The city is eying smart growth, not sprawl, as a way to bring in more starter homes and upscale housing. The county has 85 horse farms, and ranks third in equine sales, and is in the top 10 for agriculture production. Zoning regulations and the comprehensive land use plan are also restrictive. Building a subdivision outside of the city limits is all but "impossible."

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Wow that is some very impressive progress for a city the size of Paris. You wouldn't happen to have any pics of Paris would you? Sounds like the sort of town I would like to visit sometime to photograph and peruse if I was up that way.

I hope we continue to hear about more cities this size, and smaller, that are taking the steps to maintain their downtown areas and keep their communities vitalized using smart growth planning and projects.

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No, but it is on my list. Along with the Paris Pike in general. Paris has made a great turnaround, along with Midway and Versailles. Their urban cores are very much active, filled with people, and full of unique goodness. Some towns, like Millersburg, have yet to see this growth, however.

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Thats great to hear that other communities in the area are also doing well in keeping their downtowns active and developed. Perhaps Millersburg will get things together and be able to follow suit.

Any local info you can share on Versailles? I have always heard that city mentioned as significant community in that part of the state, in large part due to the Democratic Governors and politicians it has produced and to its horse industry.

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Versailles has seen a lot of development lately -- both suburban and urban. The southwest bypass was completed IIRC 2000, and has a nice bike path alongside it. Sprawl has now consumed both sides of the roadway, but is such that it will not be diving into the horse farms to the west, north, or east. The land were tobacco fields, which are "replaceable". There is some development to the east along US 60, but not to the north of the highway, where a huge residential rezone (from agriculture) was denied overwhelmingly. Another plat to the east is being sold as a farm, so that is good to hear.

Downtown is seeing some improvements. There is a new downtown two-story building that houses offices on the second floor and retail on the first. Many period buildings are seeing restorations, and an old bank building was recently gutted for a new library. The old school (closed last year) is being converted into offices (the gym was just torn down).

There was an article in the H-L that I have clipped about Versailles' plan to build up and dense, instead of out. It contained renderings and specifics.

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