Hendersonville residents and officials gathered Friday afternoon, Oct. 11, to celebrate the completion of a streetscape they hope will make their downtown a vibrant local destination.
The ribbon-cutting, held in front of the recently installed Mountain Memory Fountain, marked the completion of the final phase of the Main Street rehabilitation project, a construction endeavor that updated infrastructure, increased sidewalk length, added space for outdoor seating and installed the new public art piece. “We’re through with Main Street,” Mayor Barbara G. Volk announced to the crowd. “Main Street’s been torn up for four years and we’re through with it, at least in my lifetime.”
Carried out in three phases, with construction beginning in 2010, the project was designed to expand on the serpentine streetscape first installed by the town in 1978. “What you have before you today is probably the envy of every town our size in the South East,” Council Member Steve Caraker told the crowd. “There are more people on this street than I’ve seen in over the thirty years that I’ve lived here,” Caraker added.
Lew Holloway, downtown economic development director, said the rehabilitation’s added space supports downtown restaurants by allowing them to add popular outdoor seating, and it grants more room for the town’s major events, such as the Rhythm and Brews and Apple festivals.
Pictured: City officials and others involved in Hendersonville’s downtown reconstruction, including (from left) Todd Trace, Council Member Ron Stephens, Mayor Barbara Volk and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Collis. All were on hand for the ribbon-cutting to mark the completion of Hendersonville’s Main Street Rehabilitation Project.
“We see the investment as a springboard to embracing our community and growing the population of people who say, ‘Hey, downtown’s a cool place to go!’” Holloway said. “That’s what you want. You want people to walk away from downtown saying, “Yeah, I had a good time.”
Holloway said the goal of the new streetscape is to support a vibrant commercial district that will be attractive to both tourists and locals, including Hendersonville’s increasing population of young families.
“When you’re making an investment like the streetscape, you’re doing it not only for your existing customers but you’re also doing it in a desire to identify other folks in the community that we can invite into this district, who are going to enjoy it,” Holloway said.
Brenda Ramer, director of Team ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium, said the project involved significant reconstruction but she felt it caused little disrupted to her organization, crediting the project’s construction team, Trace and Company, and noting that even when the pavement in front of the aquarium was removed and replaced, none of the tanks shook.
“It’s been so worth it,” Ramer said. “The project let us expand outward and not just be in our walls. It makes us more than just a building or another shop or venue.”
Ramer said the aquarium has used the increased sidewalk space for hula hooping, bean bag throws and turtle pettings.
City officials credit the rehabilitation with a net gain of five downtown businesses and an estimated $1.4 million increase in property values within the district during the last municipal budget year. The town’s investment in the project is estimated at over $4 million, according to the Downtown Advisory Committee.