By Jesse Wood
Earlier this week, the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum hosted the annual “State of the Town” meeting to hear updates from town officials, including Town Manager Scott Fogleman, Chamber Executive Director Charles Hardin and Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Tracy Brown.
Hardin noted that the chamber’s board created a five-year strategic plan and is developing a new “lifestyle” website – to have its current address once live – promoting Blowing Rock as a place to live and work, according to a slideshow provided by Hardin. (The Town of Blowing Rock is also working on a new website as well.)
Among continuing projects advocated by the Blowing Rock Chamber:
- Recruitment of new businesses for vacant storefronts
- Support and promote Middle Fork Greenway project
- Support and promote Chestnut Ridge project
- Gateway Project
- Continued focus on extended Retail Hours May – October
The Chamber is also supporting businesses with seminars like “Extending Your Sales Past The Season” and “Retail Boot Camp,” discounted business insurance rates for members, an awards luncheon and events like Holiday Stroll on Dec. 9 and a new event, Sip and Shop, on first Fridays of the month.
Hardin noted the visitation of some of the events in Blowing Rock.
- Art in the Park brought in 35,000 folks over the past six months;
- Symphony By The Lake at Chetola, 4,000 attendees;
- Savor Blowing Rock, 3,000 attendees,
- WinterFest, 2,000 attendees
Hardin also mentioned the Chamber’s The Village Foundation of Blowing Rock, which is promoting the Laurel Lane project and Legacy Project – in addition to the holiday lighting that has made the village more festive in the doldrums of winter.
Fogleman showed a slideshow of some of the development projects in the works such as the proposed condos at the old Blowing Rock Hospital site, the Moody building on Sunset Drive, the duplexes at Ransom Street, the Blowing Rock Medical Park, renovations of the Ice House, Appalachian Ski Mtn. visitor center and detached sign, the Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge and more.
He also showed “before and after” photos of the Main Street streetscape improvements (see attached) that were was funded with the voter-approved general obligation bond. He also noted that the construction of the $1.2 million sidewalk project from downtown to Bass Lake will begin in the spring of 2017. The sidewalk project is mostly funded with a nearly $1 million federal grant.
Fogleman’s slideshow notes that underground utilities for downtown would cost north of $17 million: $6.5 for Sunset Drive, $5.5 million for Main Street (north), and $5.25 million for Main Street (south). Underground utilities are listed as a priority in the town’s 2014 comprehension plan.
Brown updated those in attendance on how tourism is faring in Blowing Rock.
In a recap, Brown said that Blowing Rock recorded the largest amount of occupancy tax revenue ever with $960,473 derived from $16 million of lodging sales for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
“That’s the largest amount ever recorded in Blowing Rock and we’re very proud in what we’ve accomplished over the last several years to reach this milestone. As it stands right now, we’re trending even better this season and have had a fantastic summer so far,” Brown told High Country Press on Wednesday.
“If this national election does not get in the way, we could see another record setting year in 2017. Historically, leisure travel takes a dip during a national election due to a travelers anxiety regarding a new administration and policies. Folks will tend to tighten up their purse strings during an election year. We have not seen evidence of that, yet.”
See some graphs that were shown at the State of the Town meeting below:
Photos of some of the Main Street Streetscape improvements:
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