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Better Block honored by state

Two Winchester organizations were honored by the Kentucky Heritage Council with Kentucky Main Street Awards for their work on ReMain North: A Better Block Project.

On Thursday, The Greater Clark Foundation received the Outstanding Main Street Partner Award for its role in the project, and Main Street Winchester was awarded Best Main Street Project or Event for the event, which took place in November 2015.

Better Block Winchester: ReMain North was a seven-hour, two-day event intended to temporarily transform a block on North Main Street in downtown Winchester plagued by perception issues with “pop up shops,” art galleries, cafes and restaurants in order to showcase its potential to the community.

It was based on the successful international Better Block movement founded in Texas. The project continues to inspire the community and propel change in downtown Winchester, nearly two years later.

The Greater Clark Foundation sponsored the event and provided support to Main Street Winchester, which organized the event with a team of volunteers.

“Placemaking is an important component of the mission of the Greater Clark Foundation and downtown is an important anchor for the community economically and culturally,” The Greater Clark Foundation President and CEO Jen Algire said. “We were proud to partner with Main Street Winchester on this important demonstration project.”

The project had more than 100 volunteers — from high school students to retirees — who contributed more than 400 volunteer hours to the project. Eleven pop up shops brought in almost $8,000 during the seven hours of the event’s operation time. The project involved more than two dozen local and regional organizations/businesses who sent volunteers, gave deep discounts or in-kind donations.

“The project would have been impossible without the vision and support of GCF,” Main Street Winchester Director Rachel Alexander said. “The Greater Clark Foundation gave Main Street Winchester and its volunteers access to powerful resources that would have been out of our reach otherwise. With support from GCF, we were able to empower the community to shape and lead the project, which temporarily transformed North Main Street. The powerful combination of empowering new leaders and showing our community what can be has had a positive and far-reaching impact.”

Five new businesses have opened in downtown, directly inspired by Better Block.  Nine properties (and counting) have been purchased and are in various stages of rehabilitation.

Each year, the Kentucky Main Street program (a division of the Kentucky Heritage Council) recognizes the best in Main Street across eight categories. Best Main Street Project/Event is awarded to the Main Street program committee displaying excellence in Main Street activities, while the Outstand Main Street Partner Award is given in recognition of an economic development project in a downtown district that was successfully completed with the use of a great partnership.

Previously, Main Street Winchester (then known as Winchester First) received the Best Economic Restructuring Award in 2009.