Project paves way for future growth
By Keith Whitson
I know it has raised concern among some of the businesses in town as to how it would affect the patronage during the stages of construction. The meeting last week was to address some of those concerns.
I will have to say that I am proud of our town and the detailed processes that have been undertaken to better Erwin for all of us. I feel the new design will in no way take away from the character or uniqueness visible when driving down Main Avenue, but will enhance the store fronts and claim the attention from motorists passing through.
As City Recorder Randy Trivette explained at the meeting, Erwin was established between the mountains and the river. The mountain naturally needs to flow into the river but it is blocked by the town, railroad tracks and an interstate.
Many of us have witnessed the flooding through the downtown streets when a hard rain comes. There aren’t any good ways to fix that without digging up the streets and putting in larger pipes.
This project is going to give the town the opportunity to not only do that but to check out and replace water pipes, bury underground wiring properly, revamp sidewalks and entrances to businesses and give us all a better street to travel on.
Not only will we get these needed fixes, but at the same time the project will add beauty to the surroundings. Trees and greenways will be established to add an aesthetically pleasing drive for visitors as well as regulars in town. Hidden electric lines, new lamp posts and attractive signage will also add to the design to help eliminate unsightly distraction now.
The project is set to begin the first part of May. Phase one, which goes from Second Street to the Gay Street intersection, will be completed sometime in September prior to the Apple Festival. Next year phase two will begin, which will extend the project around the curve onto Love Street and end at the Church Street intersection.
I am very impressed by the detail put into this undertaking. Engineers and designers have spent months upon months of extensive hours to draw up the perfect plan to suit Erwin’s needs. Working with town officials, they have seemingly thought of every aspect to make this process as effortless as possible.
Also stepping in to embrace the project and support the Downtown Merchants is the staff of the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Amanda Delp along with Cathy Huskins, and Dawn Edwards were at the meeting last week to offer ideas for taking advantage of the project to increase business.
They have many plans to entice tourists and shoppers into town. Amanda said many motorists would want to come through town out of curiosity to see the progress. She suggested store owners gear sales toward the progress.
One idea she offered was hosting a “Hard Hat” day, where business owners could wear yellow construction hats and embrace the situation with a themed sale. Stores could offer discounts or samples to attract customers in. Other ideas pertained to holiday shopping.
The Chamber has also contracted with a firm to develop a Web site for updates and events. The Web address will offer local businesses the opportunity to announce upcoming events. The site will also document and follow construction progress.
As business owners met last week they had a few questions and ideas that hadn’t been thought of out of the many details already covered. Randy said he appreciated the additional thoughts and would see that they were addressed.
This is a big project for Erwin but one that will correct existing problems and put us in the right direction for beauty and growth to meet the needs of generations to come.