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Public to have role in ‘facelift’

Erwin residents and business owners will soon have the chance to weigh in with their opinions and tell professional planners exactly what sort of “facelift” the downtown district needs in order to bolster tourism, commerce and economic growth.
David Coode, a senior project manager with Kimley-Horne and Associates Inc., said his Nashville-based firm will be in town at the end of July to begin a three-day exploration of what the firm can do to revive Erwin’s downtown.
“We’re going to host a series of conversations with different focus groups,” Coode said. “We’re going to talk to current business owners to help give us an understanding of downtown businesses and how they operate there.”
Coode said there will also be a public meeting at some point during the firm’s tour. During that time, he indicated his company would be “all ears.”
“We want to engage people in this process,” Coode said. “We want them to come out and talk to us about their vision for Erwin, things they’d like to see and do there.”
Kimley-Horne’s visit to town is the beginning of a nine-month process in which the firm will develop a master plan for revitalizing Erwin’s downtown district. The company was selected by a committee and voted on in a called meeting of the town’s aldermen last week.
“I’m very excited about the project that we’re undertaking,” City Recorder Randy Trivette said. “I think having this master plan is very crucial for economic growth and development.”
Trivette said he is in the process of getting a contract signed between the town of Erwin and Kimley-Horne before the end of the month, when the meetings will take place. He added that public participation in the process is key to its success.
“We want to make sure that everyone who wants to be involved in this comes out to the meetings,” he said. “They know best when it comes to identifying what our district needs. They know better than me, better than the architect (firm).”
Coode said another element of Kimley-Horne’s tour will be to meet with Apple Festival organizers to discuss infrastructure needs for downtown events. He indicated that planning improvement for the town’s sewer system, underground wiring and other parts of the infrastructure would need to be completed as part of the master plan.
“We’re going to make sure that during any improvements that get made, the infrastructure underneath the sidewalks and streets gets improved at the same time,” Coode said. “That way, we don’t build something and then have to go back in and tear it out later to make improvements.”
Coode said his firm’s tour of the town will tentatively kick off on July 27, with a planned public forum on the evening of July 28. Midway through the master-planning process, around late September, he said Kimley-Horne will return to discuss progress on the plan with citizens.
“This is all about understanding public input and understanding their vision for this community,” Coode said. “We want to have a solid knowledge of where the city is today and where it wants to go.”
A specific time frame for completing the full downtown revitalization project is not clear, as the board of mayor and aldermen have indicated they will approve capital projects as funding is available during the coming years.