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America's Biggest Small Town Comebacks
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."