BOONE — Progress on new facades of downtown businesses, the Howard Street project, upcoming events and the future of downtown Boone were all discussed during the annual Downtown Boone Development Association meeting on Aug. 27.
Around 30 people gathered at Ransom for the meeting, where Downtown Development Coordinator Lane Moody presented information on what the DBDA has been doing in the last year. According to Moody, this is the 26th year that the DBDA has been accredited through Main Street America.
In 2018-19, there were $5,933,000 worth of property acquisitions or sales in downtown with $334,149 worth of private improvements and new construction, according to Moody. She said this information came from building permits, word of mouth and tax records, and she believed this number could even be higher because some construction didn’t require a building permit.
Moody discussed various facade improvements that have taken place, including the old PNC Bank building — that is now Ben and Jerry’s and Elizabeth Treasure’s downstairs with eight apartments upstairs. This is in addition to the Horton Hotel that was formerly known as Art Space as well as Ransom that was formerly Murphy’s. Other work being done includes paint and awning work done to the Green-Wilcox Building and work to the Eggers Law Firm that was where the Tourism Development Authority and Destination by Design were located.
Moody explained that the DBDA has a facade incentive grant program that will award up to $5,000 per business for any facade work that is done.
Boone Town Manager John Ward spoke to those in attendance about the progress of the Howard Street project — which is planned to include the burying of utility lines, water and sewer upgrades, storm drainage, paving, bike lanes, crosswalks, on-street parking, mid-block crossings, streetlights, landscaping and other streetscape enhancements. The project is currently estimated to cost $9 million, with about $3 million used to place the utilities underground, Ward said.
The Boone Town Council has set aside $1.2 to $1.5 million to date for the project. The town of Boone is applying for a $9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Loan to pay for the project. Ward said that the occupancy tax revenue could potentially be put toward the repayment of the loan. The town could be going to bid for and be ready by spring for the start of construction. Ward said he’s excited, as this is a project that has been in discussion for about 30 years.
“Most communities don’t have the ability to double the size of their economic engine — their downtown — and we do with the Howard Street project,” Ward said.
The town has also hosted several social media workshops and a CPR training class for downtown businesses in the last year as well.
Moody also discussed the town’s decision to hire its own parking staff instead of renewing its contract with McLaurin Parking — a decision that was made this year. Moody said the department is now under her watch, and hiring staff and training has been ongoing.
Past downtown Boone events such as Boone Boo, first Fridays and parades were mentioned as well. The next upcoming event for the DBDA is the mural unveiling on Sept. 6 starting at 5:30 p.m. Moody said starting Aug. 28, the mural should be starting the process to be installed. The project will display the town’s new logo and will be painted on aluminum panels that will be put on the side of a building at the intersection of King Street and Depot Street.
Moody said the second Jimmy Smith Maranon and Street Party is planned for Sept. 27. The maranon is a non-marathon where racers make a loop around Jimmy Smith Park on Rivers Street — a total of 333 feet. Cultural Resources Director Mark Freed said he thinks Mast General Store potentially plans to set up hammocks for those racers who need a rest afterward.
DBDA also plans to offer a shred truck to downtown businesses on Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to noon in the King Street Lot. This event will offer a 10 banker box maximum to businesses needing shredding services. Boone Boo has been moved up by one day this year, and will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 30 due to an Appalachian State University football game planned for the Halloween holiday. King Street will be closed from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for Boone Boo. First Festive Friday is planned from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 6.
More information on the DBDA and upcoming events can be found at downtownboonenc.com.