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High Country Host Might Soon Be Looking for a New Home With NCDOT Pondering Inquiries To Sell Property

The NCDOT is considering selling property on Pride Drive, which is the home of High Country Host. Photo by Jesse Wood
The NCDOT is considering selling property on Pride Drive, which is the home of High Country Host. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 29, 2015. The N.C. Department of Transportation is considering selling the building that occupies High Country Regional Visitors Center at the corner of Pride Drive and Blowing Rock Road, NCDOT spokesman Jordan-Ashley Baker confirmed on Thursday.

Baker said that after “several different inquiries and interest regarding the availability of the property,” transportation officials met in December and January to discuss the possibility of High Country Host vacating the premises.

Baker added that there is currently no set date for High Country Host, which runs the visitors’ center, to move out because only preliminary discussions have occurred and a decision has yet to be made. Baker said there is no rent for use of the facility.

North Carolina National Bank, which is now apart of Bank of America after a number of mergers, occupied in the building before the NCDOT acquired the facility in the ‘80s during the construction of U.S. 321.

In 1985, High Country Host began running the visitors center on Pride Drive. High Country Host formed in 1980 to advertise the region in key markets, and after 35 years, High Country Host has become a local institution.

When asked for a comment, Candice Cook, marketing director with High Country Host, released a statement:

“High Country Host works closely with the DOT and intends on continuing to run a High Country Regional Visitors Center. There are currently no concrete plans, but we want to make sure we can continue to provide visitors with a warm welcome to the High Country and the resources they need to plan there stay.”

According to tax records with Watauga County, the 1.17-acre parcel is appraised at $934,600 and the building has an appraisal value of $182,300.

The property is located directly across from the KFC on Pride Drive and connects to one of the entrances to the vacant Kmart that closed down in September, after it was sold to a developer.

Boone Planning Director Bill Bailey said that the developer looked into realigning Pride Drive to Boone Heights Drive at the stoplight, but that had “fallen through.” Now the developer is looking to connect Postal Drive to the old Kmart shopping center. Bailey said that NCDOT isn’t opposed to the Postal Drive connector with stoplight.

“They need a traffic light,” Bailey said. “It’s just too dangerous with Shoppes at Shadowline, [potentially] Harris Teeter and the Post Office [all in proximity].”

While the multiple parties that purchased the old Kmart property haven’t responded to numerous requests for comment, Bailey noted that Harris Teeter has an option on the property and that Publix Super Markets looked like a “good possibility” to be next in line.