Chilhowie revitalization invites new business
Chilhowie’s once-vibrant Main Street is being restored. Following the completion of street and drainage revamps, the facade improvement phase of its $1.4 million redevelopment project concluded in early September. The project to restore the commercial heart of the 2,100-person town that was once a textile manufacturing hub began after residents gathered in 2014 to form a plan to breathe new life into the area.
The town received a facelift: about 10,000 square feet of sidewalks, five decorative streetlights and restored facades on Main Street, along with new paving, curbs and gutters, signage, branding and construction of a farmer’s market. Chilhowie also laid 1,200 linear feet of drainage pipe to resolve stormwater flooding problems. The removal of the 80,000-square-foot abandoned Superior Mills textile plant eliminated one eyesore, and the site is now environmentally safe for future development.
“We are open for business,” says Chilhowie Town Manager and Chief Administrative Officer John E.B. Clark Jr. “The downtown revitalization project really improved Chilhowie’s historic Main Street district that dates back to 1913, removing the blight to make way for new business.”
The community redevelopment project retained jobs by keeping current businesses in the downtown area, Clark says. He also hopes the redevelopment will lure new businesses, like a grocery store and a coffee shop. It has already attracted The Denim Kyote, a Western-themed clothing store that has not yet announced its opening date.
David Richards, who grew up in Chilhowie, recalls that in the 1960s, the town’s Main Street was lined with a robust assortment of retailers, including the Bonham Motor Co., a garage started around 1920 by Richards’ great-grandfather, Hezekiah Love Bonham. In 2010, Richards and a partner purchased the Bonham building and renovated it. Today, it’s one of three Main Street buildings Richards owns; he operates a real estate firm, Price Richards Commercial, on the second floor and leases first-floor space to local retailers.
“My involvement over the last decade of trying to restore and bring life back to the old buildings was greatly enhanced during the last couple of years by the downtown revitalization program,” Richards says. “It has encouraged the investment by others in the remaining buildings on Main Street, where the first floors of these buildings are almost fully leased. My current focus is on redevelopment of a residential component on the second floors.”
— Katherine Schulte contributed to this story.