Southern Hills: Expanding Their Roots Pt. 2

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Within the small towns of the Southern Hills lie picturesque downtown main streets. These downtown areas often brand a town and can be a key indicator of economic growth and prosperity. But the question remains - how do these towns update facilities without losing their historic roots?

“We’re encouraging people to use our old buildings downtown here and start investing in what we have,” said Georgia Holmes of the Hot Springs City Council.

Hot Springs has well over 100 years’ worth of history. Their downtown district is historic, meaning the buildings need to stay put and maintain their historic facade.

Courtesy: City of Hot Springs

“There’s a lot of interest in the buildings themselves and in occupying them for retail in a downtown front,” said Andrea Powers, the executive director of the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation. “When I first started, I would get a call from a start-up maybe once every two months, and now I’m getting four to five a month.”

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Custer has the same ideology with old roads being repaved. They remain wide enough to accompany the ox wagons that used to parade the streets in the 1800s - all in an effort to keep their historic charm.

"One of the things I think you'll find is that in community, a lot of them have a lot of history in their buildings and stuff, and it's important not to just tear these buildings down or to close facilities up,” said Kelly Miller, a member of the Custer Economic Development Corporation. “We want to be there to help them make something different. When we have a community that people - when they drive through, they want to stop and see it. That's what we're trying to do, is get main street fronts to portray that old fashioned - the old country - because that's what people like. That's what they come here for. Part of what we need to do is be a destination."

Edgemont also has historic roots but with a slightly different story. Much of the area consists of ranches and doesn’t necessarily target tourism, making the downtown appearance not a top priority.

"The businesses that we have here seem to have been very good at providing service and products to us that we need," said Mark Hollenbeck, the vice president of Edgemont’s Chamber of Commerce.

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However, Edgemont still prides itself with history, being home to the gazebo where Teddy Roosevelt once spoke. The city also repurposed an old sale barn into the community theater and harbors their iconic fully covered bridge.

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