The city of Corbin is one step closer to realizing the dream of a park dedicated to Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder Colonel Harland Sanders, the central feature of which will be a bronze statue in his likeness.
Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission Chairwoman Suzie Razmus confirmed Tuesday that the Commission has purchased two downtown lots on Main Street for a total of $160,000 – one which will be used for the park honoring Sanders and the other that will likely be used as a community gathering space.
"This is who we are. This is our identity. We are the home of Colonel Sanders and the original KFC," Razmus said. "As a tourism board, it is our responsibility to capitalize on our tourism assets. Colonels Sanders is a huge asset for this town."
The project has been a priority for the board since Razmus became its chair in January. The board had eyed several properties downtown, but availability and cost were always sticking points.
The deal for the two pieces of property was finalized Monday. The board purchased the empty lot where Cox’s House of Furniture was formerly located, now home to a public art display, and another lot directly across the street located at the intersection of Main and Monroe Streets.
The property was purchased from the Law Office of Freeman and Childers. The old Cox’s lot went for $110,000 and the other lot was $50,000.
Razmus said the purchase did not come without some on-again, off-again negotiations. She added that, at first, the Tourism Commission was considering some sort of lease agreement for the property. The details of that sort of arrangement could not be worked out.
Razmus said purchase of the property is a huge step toward making the Sanders Park a reality
"It’s a long term project. It’s very difficult to ask people for money when you don’t even have a home for the project, so this really helps," Razmus said. "This shows our commitment toward the park. Now we can really go and ask for funds. There’s real opportunities here."
Razmus said Yum! Brands, the company that now owns KFC, is enthusiastic about the project and may play a role in its completion.
A committee of community members called Friends of Colonel Sanders was formed this year to help guide the project. Razmus is a member of the committee. She said Friends of Colonel Sanders will now focus on building a website dedicated to the park, www.buildthecolonel.com, and efforts will be made to procure a more solid plan for the layout of the park. A preliminary mock up of the project was provided to the News Journal Tuesday, but Razmus said it is just an initial concept and may undergo radical changes.
"I think with good directional signage that can be seen from the original KFC restaurant, a lot of people will come into Corbin to see this park and statue," Razmus said. "We want our Colonel to be approachable. He is a beloved figure worldwide and we are hoping to capture that with this project."
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said he is excited about Tourism’s purchase of the property, primarily because it will transform two vacant, blighted downtown tracts into something positive.
"I think it will be really something special when they get it finished," McBurney said. "I am all for anything that will improve our Main Street and I think this will really enhance our town."
McBurney said he is cautiously optimistic funds can be raised for the bronze statue, which figures to be a significant portion of the expense of the park.
Razmus said the Tourism Commission budgeted about $125,000 this year for property acquisition, so the expense of buying the two properties is not wholly unexpected.
"The great thing is, we didn’t have to borrow money or anything like that," Razmus said. "It was a line item in our budget. We have been planning for it."