As the first phase of construction on Elkin’s new heritage and trails center comes to a close, the building was opened up to town officials, board of commissioners and candidates for the board Thursday evening prior to the monthly commissioners’ meeting.
Leslie Schlender, the town’s economic development director, and Ricky White of Garanco, the general contractor handling the project, gave a tour to officials as they came through, showing off the original features of the former Smith-Phillips Lumber Building on Standard Street which is being renovated and upgraded to serve as the heritage and trails center.
The first phase, $370,000 of the project cost, which was funded in part by local grants and town funding, include demolition of unusable parts of the structure, as well as the frame work for the internal rooms to be created and roof work to keep further damage from taking place inside the building.
The front porch of the center features a new staircase leading to a stamped concrete porch made to look like plank boards. Entering the building, the contractors were able to keep the brick flooring, the fireplace, the outer walls and the wood-frame ceiling and steel beams, giving the center a modern rustic feel. Windows were added to the back wall of the building, and eventually it will have exposed ductwork with dropped pen lights.
“Remember it’s not just a visitors center,” Schlender said of what the center will become. “A person can walk in the door and get it — how great the schools are, who the employers are, the jobs that are available, housing options.”
The western portion of the building will feature display area for exhibits, brochures and other features, which are still being determined. A counter and two offices have been framed out in the central area of the building, to allow volunteers and staff to man the desk and help those coming in and to house the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce offices. In the eastern portion of the building, a large classroom have been framed where Surry Community College and members of the community can hold cultural arts classes, and in front of that room a conference room and break room have been framed. Along the far eastern wall will be new bathroom facilities.
“We need it to do a lot, and show all the wonderful things we have to offer,” Schlender said. “There will be history displayed, but in an interactive way. People can feel where we’re going, not just where we’ve been. We were built by textile heritage, but look at what we have now.
“With an aging workforce, we need to show younger people the reasons to come here,” she said, explaining the next step for the display space will be gathering those stakeholders together to decide what the best stories are to tell and incorporate all those pieces.
She also hopes to see a space in the corner of the larger display area which can be used as a tour book space or a wine tasting area which could feature Yadkin Valley wines on rotation. Also, there has been talk about featuring artisans and their work for sale in the center.
“In an ideal world,” Schlender said she hoped the center will be open by the fall of 2017.
“We hope for another chunk of funding for part of phase II, $171,000,” she said, adding that grant funds will be secured for the final phase to amount to about $400,000. The idea is for the project being done in phases and money raised as each phase is kicked off, to be fully paid for when it is complete.
“The town has made the commitment, because the town kicked it off, and now we are going to others for support,” said Schlender.
Later in the evening, during the commissioners meeting, Schlender brought to the board for approval the contract for the second phase of construction at a cost of $171,000. The board unanimously approved the work.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.