Vacant commercial districts, blighted historic neighborhoods, failed urban renewal projects and natural disasters are among the challenges overcome by the now-thriving towns identified by Rane. The success stories include:
Frederick, Maryland: After overcoming suburban flight and a massive flood, the town has been revived, "with a nearly chain-proof red brick commercial district lined with indie shops, destination restaurants and weekenders from D.C. and Baltimore (both about an hour away) escaping here instead of the other way around."
El Dorado, Arkansas: This town faced a steady decline after an oil rush in the 1920s fizzled. "Thanks to one huge civic mobilization, mass restorations, a new $14.4 million conference facility and a roster of annual festivals, El Dorado has recouped its reputation as 'the pride of south Arkansas.'"
Paducah, Kentucky: As recently as the 1980's, its commercial district was 70 percent vacant. "More than $100 million in investment later, those same blocks are home to a vibrant arts and small business community that's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With brick- and tree-lined sidewalks that attract more than $200 million in annual tourist income, the town underwrites an Artist Relocation Program that's drawing resident artists and international visitors, and is considered a national model for utilizing the arts for municipal resurrection."