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Perryville’s historically respectful Makeover

PERRYVILLE — Leaders in Perryville hope to revitalize the city’s downtown area with a historically respectful makeover, and they’re getting a bunch of help from a few University of Kentucky students with volunteer spirits.

The new downtown Perryville, as imagined by the four UK students, features a boardwalk with a cafe, a dock for fishing behind city hall, a pedestrian walkway over the river, a new farmers market building, a visitors center and a whole lot of landscaping.

“The historic bedrock is already here, but it just needs the extra step, the extra push to really make this place come alive,” said Mark Ramler, a graduate student in historic preservation. “We’re (hopefully) giving it that injection of design into the historic community to make it viable again.”

Ramler and three landscape architecture students from UK have been working on a master renovation plan for the Chaplin River area of Perryville since October, when Ramler and landscape architecture professor Ned Crankshaw visited the town.

Crankshaw said their work began as part of a bigger project to compile best design practices for rural areas and small communities but then snowballed when they saw the potential of Perryville. The students are not earning class credit for their work or getting paid.

“These guys sort of volunteered to take this on, and they wanted to do more design work once they were here,” Crankshaw said. “They just got really interested in it … I just help them really get organized.”

The students worked together to create initial design plans for Buell Street and its intersection with U.S. 150, as well as Smith Street and the end of East Fourth Street. In the plan, the Johnson-Brinton Building will be used as a visitors center.

Landscaping and a welcome sign will be used along the west bank of the river next to U.S. 150 to draw attention to the welcome center and make it easy to find.

More activities

Next door, in what is currently the empty lot used for farmers markets, a new farmers market building would be constructed, with shrubs along the edges of the parking lot.

A deck would be extended around the back of city hall, and the rear slope would be landscaped to allow people to sit along the bank of the river. A short dock would extend out the back of city hall, allowing people to fish.

A pedestrian bridge would span the river, and a boardwalk would meander along the west shore behind businesses like the Elmwood Inn and the Itchy Dog cafe and antique shop. Besides the major ideas, the design includes landscaping for many areas and a winding sidewalk between Smith and East Fourth streets on the east bank.

“Right now, it’s not very lively,” landscape architecture student Lauren Fraley said of the downtown area. “We’re trying to bring more people in … and also provide a place for businesses to really flourish.”

Vicki Goode, head of the downtown revitalization group Perryville Main Street, said she is extremely excited about the potential for the students’ designs.

“This is a godsend that they came and were willing to work with Perryville and go to the extent that they did,” she said. “It’s a small town, and we want to keep that small town flavor but give it the amenities.”

While the plan calls for improvement of many buildings, it would keep the historical façades intact, preserving the historical flare of the area.

Tourist draw

Goode said she is applying for a grant through the organization Tour Southeast Kentucky that could pay for the farmers market building, which tops the list of Perryville Main Street’s priorities. The grant deadline is Thursday.

“The rest of my week will be spent getting the other quotes for this quickly — very quickly,” she said.

Once the farmers market and landscaping at the corner of U.S. 150 and U.S. 68 is complete, Goode said Perryville Main Street would like to start working on the dock behind city hall. The dock could prove to be a solid fundraising attraction. Small tackle boxes could be sold to visitors, and fishing poles rented, creating a tourism draw and providing some revenue, she said.

Perryville Mayor Anne Sleet was full of praise for the plans.

“I would really like to see Merchants Row up and thriving,” she said. “This street can be made a beautiful street.”

Lisa Bottom, with Perryville Main Street, said the final product of the plans can benefit all generations of Perryville residents, as well as visitors.

“I am so excited,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I would just be overjoyed to see this.”

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