West Jefferson’s transformation continues.
Since beginning the street-scape project five years ago, West Jefferson has quietly built its reputation as a pedestrian friendly downtown for tourists and locals alike by enhancing its curb approach and providing additional amenities to complement what local merchants already offer.
On Feb. 18, town officials addressed one of the town’s more pressing needs: parking.
Town Manager Brantley Price confirmed the town was in the process of closing on a piece of property -slightly more than a half-acre in size – behind the Reeves Law Firm and across from Badger Funeral Home that will be used as additional public parking.
The grassy strip is currently owned by Jak Reeves, but the sale will be finalized by Algonquin Investments.
The West Jefferson Board of Aldermen approved the $122,500 transaction during its February board meeting.
“Parking has always been one of our biggest issues, especially during the summer months,” said Price on Thursday.
The need for more parking came no the heels of its stree-tscape project, which sort of served as a Catch 22 as a cost of progress.
“The improvements have really caused the need for an increase in parking,” added Price.”It really helps with other events like Christmas in July and the Antiques’ Fair.
Town officials said they have been resourceful in facing the parking dilemma as most recently evident by converting the old tennis courts next to the former West Jefferson Elementary into new parking accommodations.
Price said builders have yet to bid on the project – it’s still technically owned by the investment group – but said he expects construction to be complete by June.
With more people coming into the downtown also increases the need for public facilities, particularly restrooms.
Beginning in March, Green Construction will break ground on the vacant lot between Boondocks Brewery and Mountain Outfitters for the purpose of new restroom.
The low bid on that project came in at $166,721.
“Besides parking, public restrooms is a big need for people walking the streets,” said Price.”Merchants just don’t have public access to restrooms in businesses, so we feel that providing public restrooms will help people on the streets whether they be locals or tourists.”
The facilities will also include a concrete pad with seating area, tables and lighting.
Among other suggestions, the restrooms were part of a recommendation by a group of Virginia Tech University architectural students who conducted a study of needed and desired improvements to the downtown approximately two years ago.
Restrooms were not the only recommendation the town took to heart.
Addressing the town’s aesthetic appeal, officials approved the paving of the gravel alleyway behind town hall. In the future, the town might considering hanging waterproof photographs in the alley, which would be similar to the historic wall located near Ashe County Cheese.
But the town’s plans don’t stop with just a little sprucing up.
In the coming weeks, construction will commence on a new street-scape project at the intersection of 2nd Street and Jefferson Avenue with the implementation of three different curb extensions and the removal of the traffic light. A four-way stop, nearly identical to the ones located further down Jefferson Avenue, will be added to further even the flow of traffic.
“It will look like the other intersections here in town,” said Price.
The total cost of the project is $440,000 with $250,000 of the price coming from federal highway funds. Rep. Jonathan Jordan was also able to secure $130,000 from the N.C. Department of Transportation in contingency funds. This means the town must foot $60,000 for the project.
Little Mountain Builders came in as the lowest bidder at $418,526.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.