2024 All-America City – Henderson, KY

Henderson, Kentucky, faced economic decline and stagnation in the early 2000s, leading to population loss and dwindling hope. However, recent years have seen a remarkable transformation, with bustling downtown activity, significant job growth, and major infrastructure investments. Development interest is at a three-decade high, but disparities in the inner city persist, with neglect resulting in mistrust toward local government. Henderson’s “Inner City Improvement Plan” aims to address these issues through funding, equity, and community involvement. 

Spotlight on Public Safety 

In the past few years, Henderson, Kentucky, was grappling with concerns about public safety and crime when the Public Safety Committee sought to address this issue. Consisting of various city officials, residents, and stakeholders, the committee began its mission in February of 2023 under the Inner-City Improvement Plan (ICIP). Given a broad mandate to explore proposals for enhancing the inner-city area, the committee engaged in extensive dialogue and research to identify key priorities. 

The ICEP efforts revealed a strong public demand for enhanced public safety measures, with initiatives such as the expansion of the Flock Camera System receiving significant support from the inner-city community. Consequently, the city decided to double the number of flock cameras and strategically place them throughout the inner city. 

Another impactful proposal, the HERO Project, aims to address police department staffing shortages by partnering with the local housing authority to offer free housing and utilities to new officers. This initiative seeks to incentivize officers to live within the community they serve, fostering closer relationships with residents. Additionally, the committee proposed providing doorbell cameras to inner-city residents free of charge, enhancing home security and safety. Plans are also underway to address deficiencies in domestic violence victim housing, creating a haven with support services. 

The overwhelming public interest in improving public safety has underscored the importance of these initiatives. While privacy concerns were acknowledged, resident surveys demonstrated that the pressing need to safeguard the inner-city community took precedence. As initiatives continue to unfold, Henderson is poised to become a model for urban revitalization and community empowerment, shaping a brighter and safer future for all residents.  

Revitalizing Letcher Street Corridor 

For a decade, efforts to revitalize the Washington Street and Letcher corridor in Henderson have brought about significant progress and extensive community involvement. Initially plagued by dilapidated buildings and neglected infrastructure, the corridor has experienced a remarkable transformation driven by strategic initiatives and collaborations between the public and private sectors. 

One pivotal action was the establishment of the Audubon Kids Zone, a collaborative effort aimed at enhancing educational and social outcomes for children in the area. Situated at the corner of Letcher and Powell Street, this initiative demonstrated a commitment to fostering long-term positive change within the inner-city community. 

Additionally, the creation of East End Park brought newfound amenities and recreational opportunities to residents, including a splash pad and mural painted by students from the School of Fine Arts program. These enhancements not only beautified the area but also contributed to its functionality and appeal. 

Additionally, the conversion of an old school into income-based senior apartments showcased the power of public-private partnerships in revitalizing neglected spaces. This multimillion-dollar reinvestment preserved historical elements while addressing contemporary housing needs, resulting in a resurgence of occupancy and aesthetic improvements. 

Looking ahead, economic development initiatives, including tax moratorium expansions and small business startup incentives, are poised to invigorate the corridor further and stimulate entrepreneurial activity. Ongoing community involvement and strategic planning will position the Washington Street and Letcher corridor to emerge as a vibrant hub of commerce and community pride, symbolizing the city’s dedication to inclusive growth and revitalization. 

Beautification and Special Projects Committee  

The Beautification and Special Projects Committee, composed of diverse city stakeholders, spearheaded three significant initiatives in Henderson. 

One major beautification/blight issue in Henderson’s Inner City stemmed from overflowing waste bins and animals dispersing loose trash in alleyways. After much discussion and feedback from the committee and residents, the committee helped provide the initiative and reasoning to move forward with providing uniform trash cans to all residents. In late 2023, the city’s sanitation department outfitted the entire city with large, lidded trash receptacles that are both attractive and secure, keeping animals at bay. 

Next, a group of inner-city residents approached the Beautification Committee with another project in mind. Anthony Brooks Park was very outdated and didn’t provide much utility for the children of the area. The committee took it upon themselves to totally revamp the park and has applied for a grant to fund the improvements. Signs are pointing strongly toward receiving the grant and starting construction in 2025. 

The last project resulted from prominent members of Henderson’s Latino community bringing up the need for more inner-city soccer fields. The Beautification and Special Projects Committee was already looking at locations and concepts for multi-sports courts, so discussions started to intensify to try to tackle both projects on the same site. The committee made a pitch for multi-sport courts, and the city has already entered negotiations to acquire ten acres of land in the heart of the Inner City to add 2-3 soccer fields and 2-3 multi-sport courts. 

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