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Downtown Plan for Harlan, KY: Introduction

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

By Ryan Sandwick, CEDIK Community Design Specialist

Link to original post found HERE

Building upon the successes of last year’s summer community design internship program that focused on downtown Manchester, we are excited to share the work our 2019 interns have been doing in downtown Harlan this summer. Partnering with ONE Harlan County and the Mountain Mural Mega Fest, the students are halfway through their schedule and have been busy inventorying and analyzing downtown.

Before we talk more about this summer’s program though, I would like to introduce the interns:

Interns surveying downtown Harlan

Harrison Knifley Hometown: Columbia, KY University: University of Kentucky Major: Undergraduate in Landscape Architecture

Jordan Hackworth Hometown: Cumberland, KY University: Northern Kentucky University Major: Undergraduate in Visual Communication Design

Lily Hutzell Hometown: Annapolis, MD University: University of Kentucky Major: Graduate in Historic Preservation

Rachel Crosslin Hometown: Hendersonville, TN University: University of Kentucky Major: Undergraduate in Architecture

Given the diverse backgrounds of the students, this summer’s work will have a focus on the buildings and places in downtown Harlan that help give the downtown its unique character. Once these elements have been identified the students will work together to determine how these elements can be capitalized on to support downtown revitalization.

Process During our work in Manchester last summer we used a pop-up mobile design studio located in a downtown storefront every Thursday. However, due to the length of time it takes to travel to Harlan from Lexington, day trips are not as feasible. Therefore, we have worked with our local partners, including Harlan County Tourism, for monthly overnight visits to Harlan where we stay in a historic downtown bungalow. Scheduled for a Wednesday morning through Friday evening each month, and using the Harlan County Cooperative Extension’s Depotas our mobile office, the students are getting fully immersed in what life is like in downtown Harlan, such as getting morning coffee from the Huddle House, walking to the Commissary in the evening for an ice cream, and going to a punk show and eating pizza on Main St. Each of these are everyday activities, but they enrich our work as we experience life in Harlan as overnight residents rather than daily visitors.

Interns talking with local business owners about design and planning can help them be more successful

Focus Areas This is an excitin


g, multidisciplinary project that will not focus on buildings, parks or streets as individual pieces of the city, but rather will approach downtown Harlan as a cohesive ‘place’. This will be accomplished by each of the interns in the cohort bringing their specific expertise to the table. While each intern will work on their particular specialties, such as architecture or historic preservation, it will be necessary for them to support each other’s efforts while learning allied vocabulary, skills and techniques. These efforts center around collecting and evaluating each of the pieces that contribute to the downtown experience. The final deliverable of a comprehensive document of the findings and recommendations will be presented to our partners and key stakeholders at the end of the summer program and provided to the community as a hard document in the following months.

Project Goals Our project seeks to create a master plan of downtown Harlan that will identify the downtown’s opportunities and constraints to formulate recommendations on how best to capitalize on them moving forward. This master plan provides a foundation for prioritizing future investments to support downtown revitalization. The following themes will be addressed as important focus areas within downtown Harlan:

Evaluate the downtown experience and make recommendations on public realm improvements based on findings/observations.Explore which public spaces and corridors in the downtown should be prioritized as investment opportunities. Identify the downtown’s current pedestrian experience (sidewalks, seating, public art, trash cans, etc.).Identify the downtown’s current vehicular experience (street circulation patterns, traffic speeds, parking locations, etc.).Explore opportunities to address the physical and visual impact of the flood walls.Understand what and how people would like to see, use and experience downtown Harlan in the future (short, medium and long terms).

Through July, the student interns will be diligently working to understand the unique character of downtown Harlan, what it means and how it can be capitalized upon for the future. We will keep you updated as the project continues!

For questions or further information please reach out to Ryan Sandwick, CEDIK’s Community Design Specialist at:

3D base model of downtown Harlan

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