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Village Foundation of Blowing Rock Unveils Downtown Streetscape Improvement Project

Village Foundation President John Aldridge, Blowing Rock Chamber Vice President Jim Pitts, Blowing Rock Chamber Executive Director Charles Hardin, Blowing Rock resident and philanthropist Alice Roess and Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Fogleman stand before an artist rendering of the streetscape improvements planned for Laurel Lane in Downtown Blowing Rock. Photo by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

The Village Foundation of Blowing Rock unveiled a $400,000 streetscape improvement proposal for Laurel Lane in downtown Blowing Rock on Tuesday afternoon to a few members of the local media.

The Village Foundation was formed in 2012 by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce to be a vehicle to raise private funds for projects that enhance the character of the village and spark economic development.

The Village Foundation came about after town officials, business leaders and community members visited a number of small towns in Western North Carolina – Brevard, Black Mountain, West Jefferson, to name a few – to figure out what they are doing right and their funding mechanisms.

“We realized the danger to a town is not that it will not be successful, but that it will be successful and as a result it will cease to improve,” quoted Village Foundation President John Aldridge.

While the Village Foundation has contributed to the Symphony by the Lake event at Chetola Resort and the festive winter lighting that now adorns Blowing Rock all winter long, Aldridge said that the Laurel Lane streetscape is the first major project of the Village Foundation.

Aldridge also talked about the “Blowing Rock Star” program, a yearly fundraiser for the foundation. In July, the foundation will mail out a fundraising letter to a large swath of area residents, giving them an opportunity to become a “Blowing Rock Star.” Aldridge said the hope is many will respond and put the “Blowing Rock Star” sticker on their vehicles. Funds raised through “Blowing Rock Star” campaign are unrestricted.

“This isn’t just about wealthy families giving to Blowing Rock,” Aldridge said.

Laurel Lane is of historical significance since it served as the Main Street entry point to the grand hotel, the Mayview Manor, in yesteryear. Today, it serves as an entrance to the Mayview neighborhood. While Laurel Lane flows onto U.S. 221, the scope of this project concerns the Main Street end of Laurel Lane.

The improvements, which include pavers, benches, public artworks, and a shade garden in the median, will “better tie Laurel Lane into Main Street” and “add to the vibrancy and character of the village experience,” according to Jim Pitts, a community planner by trade and a director on the Village Foundation and Blowing Rock Chamber.

Not counting Main Street, of course, Pitts said that Laurel Lane is the second busiest road in downtown Blowing Rock. “At the end of the day, this ends up being a key intersection right on Main Street,” Pitts said.

The project is split up into two phases. The first phase consists of work nearest Main Street and is budgeted at $170,000, while the second phase, which consists of two-thirds of the project, is expected to cost $230,000. See attached artist rendering.

Town Manager Scott Fogleman said that this proposal by the Village Foundation is exciting, for one, because Laurel Lane wasn’t on the town’s radar for the $13 million bond referendum for capital improvements that voters approved in 2014.

Alice Roess, a resident of Blowing Rock, was excited as well. She said that community members have already made a minor dent in the beautification of Laurel Lane by leveling “leggy rhododendrons that have been growing forever and ever” and putting down mulch and fertilizer. It’s a small start, she said, that received a tremendous reception from Mayview property owners.

“People who live in Mayview are very proud, and they are ecstatic about this,” Roess said.

While the project has been vetted by the town, so to speak, the Blowing Rock Chamber and Village Foundation plan to present a detailed proposal to the Blowing Rock Town Council when the council meets next in July.


Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Fogleman
Blowing Rock Chamber Vice President Jim Pitts discusses the project details.
Village Foundation President John Aldridge talks about the “Blowing Rock Star” program to fund the Laurel Lane improvements.
Village Foundation President John Aldridge talks about the mission of The Village Foundation.