After many years of planning and a year of construction, Chilhowie is set to celebrate the substantial completion of its $1.3 million downtown revitalization project.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. where it all started - at the newly renovated and revitalized Main Street (indoors at the Riverfront restaurant if raining).
The project has included renovation of Main Street with sidewalks, improved drainage, repaving of the roadway, and decorative streetlights, with planned façade work on the storefronts and reduction of overhead lines, and the old Superior Mills buildings were demolished and the site rehabbed.
In related projects, a sidewalk with curb and guttering has been built along the Lucas B. Dowell Memorial Park and Highway 11, and the Will Walker Farmers Market & Community Pavilion is under construction next to the park.
Funding and support for the project has come from the Department of Housing and Community Development, Department of Environmental Quality/EPA, Virginia Department of Transportation, American Electric Power, Smyth County Chamber of Commerce, the town of Chilhowie, and downtown property owners. The project was administered by the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission and designed by Hurt and Proffitt of Blacksburg with contractors D.H. Griffin of Bristol and Boring Contractors of Abingdon.
As funds become available, future phases could include further development of the revitalized area and links to other areas of town.
The revitalization project – and a planned revamping of the nearby intersection of Highway 11, Whitetop Road and Highway 107 - intends to bring a fresh look to an historic area and an economic boost to the town with improvement of stormwater drainage, building façades, pedestrian walkways and motorist pathways.
A dedicated committee of residents, town officials and representatives of public and private organizations has been meeting regularly to plan the upgrades.
The revitalization project started with $35,000 in planning grant funds from the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop a master plan. That plan was completed in December 2015. In September 2016, then-Governor Terry McAuliffe announced approval of more than $9.5 million in CDBG funding for 13 projects in Virginia, including $999,989 for the town of Chilhowie for downtown revitalization. The town also earned a $3,000 grant for a mini-project during the waiting period on the larger grant. With that money, the committee constructed a colorful and descriptive map of the town and surrounding area located at the Smyth County Tourism Center.
The first phase of the downtown revitalization project included façade improvements, concrete sidewalks, curb and guttering, brick accents and paving, stormwater system improvements, branding and marketing, clearance and demolition, and blight removal efforts.
Chilhowie was also awarded a Site Assessment and Planning Grant of $50,000 under the Virginia Brownfields Assistance Fund. The grant supported environmental site assessments including testing for lead paint and asbestos, and a building demolition and grading plan for the former Superior Mills buildings on East Lee Highway.
The master plan, completed in December 2015, was developed by a committee of key stakeholders in the town, along with the aid of architects, engineers, and economic consultants. The grant application was submitted in March 2016.
In September 2016, at the announcement of the town receiving the grant, Town Manager John Clark said, “I’m just ecstatic about it. This could be the beginning of a transformational process for Chilhowie and the downtown. I think this is a wonderful thing. This is a start for us.”