Activity should be picking up at the site of the former Smith-Phillips Lumber Co. in downtown Elkin over the next few months as contractors begin the early stages of preparing the building, owned by the town of Elkin, to become the Yadkin Valley Heritage Arts and Trails Center.
The building was purchased by the town in 2012, according to Leslie Schlender, economic development director for the town, who explained that an extensive planning process took place in 2013 to determine what the community wanted to see the property used for and to develop plans for its renovations in phases.
“There are various phasing scenarios in the plan, and that’s what we’ve been working on,” said Schlender.
During a project update meeting with town staff and the Elkin Board of Commissioners earlier in October, Schlender said the board decided to move forward with prepping the building and making sure its dried in and ready for future phases of the project.
“We need to stabilize the structure before we lose what we have there,” said Schlender. “So we are looking at a scenario that combines certain elements from each phase in the plan.”
An allocation of about $350,000 of the town’s fund balance by commissioners will fund “a large amount of roof work, asbestos removal and abatement and repairs to the footings so it will be able to hold within it the plumbing needed to serve our needs,” explained Schlender.
The approved work will fit into the “footprint of development” planned for the building, she said. There also be will selective demolition of parts of the structure which don’t fit into its future use.
“We will create a stabilized, dried in structure ready for development in the next phase,” said Schlender, who added in 2013 some roof work was done to stop leaking and “band-aid” repair areas needing attention.
“It has steel bracings and steel through parts of the roof, so there are parts that can be reused,” she said. “While this work is going on, we are still in fundraising mode. We have grant applications still out there and we are waiting on them to be reviewed and to get letters of commitment back.”
She said many of those grantors want to see the town is invested in the project and this first funding of town money will help show their commitment to the end result and can be used as a match for grants which may require one.
“We hope perhaps on Nov. 9 we may sign off on the repair contract with the contractor,” Schlender said. “So there could be some movement of mobilization to get ready to do the work in November or December, but I’m thinking January when most of the work will start.”
Until the final contract is signed, Schlender was hesitant to divulge the contractor’s identity, but she did say it is a Surry County company.
Funding for the first phase of work was reviewed going into the 2015-16 fiscal year, which began July 1, but the board chose to hold off on a firm appropriation knowing it may have to approve a budget amendment for the work once bids were opened.
“I think everyone will be so happy seeing work happening,” she said. “I think when folks see this next phase happening and phases after that, I think morale and the positive reality of what’s going to happen will show.
“It is a prime location. It is the gateway into our town. Yes, some people enter town off Exit 85 and Walmart, but people also enter off Exit 82 through Jonesville.”
When the purchase of the property first was entertained several years ago, she said “various members of the community saw the potential and started talking with the owner who was able to offer us a discounted price to help us achieve this project.”
Mickey Boles, who owned the site, sold the land and buildings to the town for $115,000. “That purchase and how they structured it was very appealing,” said Schlender.
The site at the time had a chain-link fence surrounding it and a large lumber racking system on the corner. The town saw the opportunity as a way of controlling the look of the entrance to town, said the ED director.
When all phases are complete the center will provide a place for visitors “to come into town and hear our story and what we have to offer,” Schlender said.
Surry Community College will run its cultural arts programs through space at the center, and the National Park Service will have its interpretation information on the Overmountain Victory Trail on display. The town will be able to promote the center off the interstate as a national historic site, Schlender explained. “Then when they are here, we can tell them about our other trails —the Mountains to Sea Trail and the Stone Mountain trail,” she said.
“This is a facility you would expect in a mature wine destination. It is going to benefit the entire region. We want to make sure we do this right.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.