Main Street Brownsville Revitalization

Brownsville, Tennessee

Brownsville, located in Haywood County along I-40, has 450 documented historic properties and businesses and four historic districts located within its downtown commercial district and adjoining residential neighborhoods. Along with these rich historic assets, the city is a noted southern food and music destination. In 2016, the Brownsville Burger Basket Restaurant was voted as having the “Best Burger” in the state and Helen’s Bar-B-Q has been named as the Southern Foodways Alliance “Queen of Bar-B-Q” and was listed on Southern Living’s “Smokin Hot Top 10” list. Brownsville is home to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, Tina Turner Museum and Flagg Grove School, which are all important destinations on both the Americana Music Triangle and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Cotton Junction Trails.

Brownsville and Haywood County also play a significant role in West Tennessee’s agricultural and manufacturing economic sectors. The county is Tennessee’s largest producer of cotton and is home to the Memphis Regional Megasite. With the Megasite, there is potential of bringing major manufacturing investments and jobs to the community and entire West Tennessee region.

These cultural and economic assets differentiate Brownsville from other counties across the state and the Southeast. The city and community leaders saw the opportunity to preserve and enhance their assets to attract new investments, businesses, residents and heritage tourism revenues. Revitalization of its historic Main Street District is the central component of these strategies.

Tennessee Downtowns and Main Street 

In 2012, leaders from the city of Brownsville came together to secure designation as a Tennessee Downtowns community. That same year, the city partnered with the University of Memphis Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning to develop the Brownsville on the Move Comprehensive Plan and later hired a design firm to create a downtown master plan to support implementation and infrastructure investments. In September 2014, the city of Brownsville became the 28th Tennessee Main Street accredited community, and its first action was to establish the Main Street District to include the historic core of the community. They also have created strategic partnerships and constructed new streetscapes, parks, music venues and a new farmers market in the Main Street district.

Façade Improvement Program

In 2014 and 2016, Brownsville received TNECD Façade Improvement Grants that have supported the renovation of multiple downtown business storefronts. Projects ranged from painting to restoration of exterior finishes, window repair, canopy and awning installation and signage. By removing regulatory barriers and creating incentives for rehabilitation, the restoration of older commercial buildings, full reuse of existing downtown commercial centers, and attraction of new businesses and investments were made possible.

Main Street Brownsville leaders created new community education resources and financial incentives and provided services and technical assistance to business and property owners desiring to make improvements to the façades of their buildings. The City adopted new historic district guidelines for rehabilitation of residential and commercial properties and obtained designation as a Tennessee Historical Commission Certified Local Government to bring more resources to these efforts. Collaboration with local contractors on the innovative use of materials and education sessions with realtors, business owners and bankers explaining use of the new design guidelines also made the process of revitalization simple as well as contagious.

Infrastructure Investments

The city acquired private funding for an open-air amphitheater in the heart of downtown and secured funds from USDA and a TNECD Tourism Enhancement Grant to add public restrooms. The amphitheater now promotes the community’s music heritage that drives tourists and residents to the downtown. The city has also been successful in obtaining TDOT grant funds for the East and West Main Streetscape projects adding sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, underground utilities and placemaking elements such as landscaping and improved lighting. City leaders secured funding for Phase I of the new Farmers Market Park including the Kaboom Playground and a ¼ mile walking trail this is being completed in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Tennessee Department of Health through the Brownsville Health Moves initiative. The city and Main Street Brownsville have partnered with PepsiCo to rehab a Pepsi Ghost Mural in the downtown district and the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce and Joint Economic and Community Development Board on a comprehensive way finding sign project.

Economic and Community Impact

The Brownsville Main Street District is an important part of community pride and has increased the number of new businesses, events and jobs. All improvements offer greater opportunity for business growth and expansion. Property owners are seeing improved marketability of their property and increased market values. Combined 2014 through 2017 results include:

Building Rehabilitations  35
Public Improvement Projects
(streetscape improvements, sidewalks, parks, amphitheatre, bathrooms, playgrounds, trails)
New Downtown Businesses  (retail, restaurants, law office, fitness center, hair salon, art studio) 15
New Jobs 45
Total Festival and Event Attendance 19,761
Volunteer Hours 2,403
Private Sector Investments $7,582,227

Project Funding

2014 TNECD Grant $25,000
Property/Business Match $6,000
2016 TNECD Grant $85,000
Property/Business Match $12,787
Brownsville Match $18,173
Total Façade Improvement Grant Projects $146,960
TDOT Streetscape Grant $700,000
TDOT Surface Transportation Grant (streets, sidewalks, crosswalks) $31,000
Brownsville Match (sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping) $375,000
Total Streetscape Projects $1,106,000
Private Contributions $75,000
City of Brownsville Match (construction) $25,000
TNECD Tourism Enhancement Grant $50,000
USDA Grant (restrooms) $25,000
Total Amphitheatre Project $175,000
TDEC Grant $200,000
City of Brownsville Match (playground and walking trai) $40,000
USDA RD Grant $88,000
Brownsville Match $25,000
In-Kind $25,000
Total Farmers Market Project $378,000
BlueCross Blue Shield Grant $100,000
Brownsville Match $30,000
Chamber Match (equipment, site preparation, installation) $8,500
Total Kaboom Playground Project $138,500
Pepsi Ghost Mural Project $1,600
Tennessee Historical Commission $26,000
Community Match $12,000
Total Design Guidelines, Website & Education $38,000
TNECD Asset Enhancement Grant $15,000

Project Leaders And Partners

City of Brownsville – Mayors Office – Project Contact
Main Street Brownsville – Executive Director – Project Contact
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
Tennessee Department of Transportation
Tennessee Department of Health
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Tennessee Historical Commission
United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development – Tennessee Office
BlueCross Blue Shield
Haywood County Chamber of Commerce
Haywood County Joint Economic Community Development Board
Private Donors

For project contact visit the City of Brownsville and Main Street Brownsville.


TNECD Tennessee Downtowns, Main Street Program and CDBG Façade Improvement Grant Program

Downtown revitalization is a critical component of successful rural economic and community development. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development encourages revitalization and adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in downtown business districts with the Main Street Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) program that funds improvements to put vacant and/or underutilized buildings into productive service as economic drivers. The Tennessee Main Street and Façade Improvement Program work together to help communities revitalize their downtown districts and create new businesses through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016 and 2017.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.