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Sustainable Rural Downtowns Case Studies

From a new downtown senior housing development in California to the creation of a value-added production facility in Vermont, rural communities across the United States are using USDA financing in innovative ways as a means to creating more sustainable communities. Because of their commitment to the success of their community, local leaders are leveraging federal, state, and local public and private investment to create dynamic projects in their towns. Sustainable development in these rural communities is exhibited through investment in unique assets of their community, development of affordable housing, enhancement of economic competitiveness, and preservation of their natural resources through infill development.

The following case studies highlight nine communities that leveraged USDA funds and strengthened their local economy through sustainable development. Many programs in USDA Rural Development’s portfolio can be used to invest in redevelopment of historic buildings, infrastructure in downtowns, and new businesses in the heart of a rural community. The projects in these case studies show how USDA funding, local leadership, and other public and private assets can create vibrant, environmentally and economically sustainable development in rural America.

Eloy, Arizona

The City of Eloy, Arizona collaborated with USDA, non-profit organizations, businesses, and an education institution to revitalize the town center and support investment in the area’s economy. Working together, the community employed economically and environmentally sustainable revitalization techniques and attracted three major organizations to Eloy’s struggling downtown. [ Case Study]

Arcata, California

In 2004, downtown Arcata, California was economically and culturally thriving but lacked affordable housing options. The Arcata community expressed commitment to affordable housing options, investment in their existing community, and enhancement of the unique characteristics of the downtown neighborhoods. With the support of USDA, the City and a private developer collaborated to create an affordable, green apartment complex for senior citizens in downtown Arcata. [Case Study]

Adairsville, Georgia

Proud of their community’s heritage, Adairsville, Georgia is committed to the success of their downtown and the preservation of the area’s historic character. As part of a greater downtown revitalization plan, Adairsville utilized a USDA grant to create a mural on their downtown train depot as part of the community’s vision for a more robust cultural heritage tourism economy. [Case Study]

Pittsburg, Kansas

The Besse Hotel in Pittsburg, Kansas was once a successful hotel in the center of downtown. From 1979 to 2010, however, the building was vacant and quickly deteriorating. The City of Pittsburg collaborated with a developer to redevelop the building into affordable, rental housing. This USDA development supported sustainable project investments in one of Pittsburg’s existing historic downtown asset while encouraging more families to live within walking distance of downtown businesses.[Case Study]

Adrian, Minnesota

In reaction to vital businesses closing in their small town, Adrian, Minnesota created a revolving loan fund with USDA support. The loans provide assistance to new and experienced businesses downtown and throughout their community. The fund is allowing Adrian to maintain access to important services in town, support downtown development, and enhance the community’s economy. [Case Study]

Gonzales, Texas

The buildings and design of Gonzales, Texas’s downtown reflects the Mexican and American influences of the community’s past. The significance of Gonzales’ downtown historic district is compounded by the presence of Crystal Theatre. Built in 1912, the theatre is home to a dinner theatre and theatre workshops for at-risk teens. In 2010, because the theatre’s exterior was in poor condition, Crystal Theatre restored the façade of their building. This USDA funded project invests in a historic downtown asset and supports an exceptional community amenity.[ Case Study]

Hardwick, Vermont

Through a partnership between non-profit organizations and local food producers, Hardwick, Vermont is investing in the area’s local and regional food systems. In 2012, Hardwick opened a new site of the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC), a food incubator for value-added and specialty food products. Supported in part by USDA, the VFVC supports the processing and business needs of local food producers as a means to strengthening the sustainable agricultural economy of Hardwick.[Case Study]

Tenino, Washington

Before 2008, Tenino, Washington’s septic system was failing and contaminating the environment. The small community needed to take on the costly effort to upgrade its facilities to protect the local environment and promote future economic growth. With funding from USDA, Tenino received its first wastewater treatment plant and collection facilities. This new infrastructure supports growth in the existing urban growth boundary and enhances Tenino’s economic competitiveness to prospective residents and businesses.[Case Study]

Clendenin, West Virginia

The historic district of downtown Clendenin, West Virginia was tainted by a deteriorating, vacant school building. A local non-profit organization decided to redevelop the building into a sustainable, mixed-use building comprised of affordable, senior housing and a medical clinic. This USDA-supported project used innovative financing of multiple federal investments to redevelop one of downtown Clendenin’s unique, historic assets.[Case Study]

For more information about federal resources available to communities interested in sustainable rural development, please visit the following links:

Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities

Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities

Rural Information Center’s Downtown Revitalization Resources

Last Modified:11/20/2014 
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