Chimney Rock Village Breaks Ground on Streetscape Phase Two

The community of Chimney Rock Village came together on Tuesday, April 16 for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate Phase Two of its Streetscape Project. Government officials, project leaders, local business owners, and residents gathered to celebrate the event with a ceremonial first dig and speeches from key stakeholders.

The streetscape project is designed to improve the safety, accessibility, and aesthetics of Main Street while preserving the community’s small town charm and longstanding history as a destination in North Carolina. Situated along the Rocky Broad River and surrounded by the picturesque Hickory Nut Gorge, the Chimney Rock Village is the gateway into Chimney Rock State Park, which draws more than a quarter million visitors annually. 

“The streetscape improvements will have a tremendous impact on the local tourism economy,” said Don Cason, Executive Director of the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority. “These enhancements will help make a great first impression on visitors, boost the curb appeal of Main Street businesses, and encourage longer stays and repeat visits to Chimney Rock and Rutherford County.”

Phase One of the streetscape project–completed in November 2021–replaced portions of the town's badly deteriorated public infrastructure for a safer, more walkable Main Street that highlights the view of the Rocky Broad River. This next phase of improvements will build on the success of Phase One by continuing the previously established sidewalk pattern with an additional 650 linear feet, as well as adding new street lamps and trees. The plans will improve parking and walkability along Main Street, while preserving familiar elements like stone benches that are part of the Village’s distinct charm. 

J. Meliski, Senior Project Manager with McGill Associates, described the care that was taken to elevate Main Street without erasing its uniqueness. “This has been an exciting thing to see,” he said. “It's not changing the fabric of the Village, but it is making it more user-friendly. The overall intent of our design and the end result is to improve pedestrian safety, flow and accessibility.”

Phase Two will include infrastructure changes to safeguard people and property along the main thoroughfare of the Village. Plans include the removal of an unsafe crosswalk and significant enhancements to the stormwater management system to protect buildings and shops from excessive runoff.

The streetscape project is a key part of Rutherford Bound’s work to invest in public spaces, helping bolster tourism in our county and improve quality of life for residents in our communities. Looking to the future, Chimney Rock Village will be a key feature of this destination area in Western North Carolina, as the development of the new Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail system draws outdoor enthusiasts from across the state. 

“Chimney Rock Village has partnered with Rutherford Bound and they recognize that access is critical to getting people into the Hickory Nut Gorge, where over 50 miles of state trail are planned,” said James Ledgerwood, Superintendent of Chimney Rock State Park. “The village streetscape is important in creating an atmosphere where people can stop and have a jump-off point to access all these trails.”

Local business owners like Jessie Callaway of the Village Scoop are excited about the upgrades they’re seeing from their storefronts because of the streetscape project. “This will streamline the parking and make our spaces more updated and safer so that people can move more freely through the village,” Jessie remarked. “There's a lot of really cool traditions and good memories that have developed here and I think that this is really going to help more people make those memories.”

The Chimney Rock Village Streetscape Project is part of the Rutherford Bound initiative and was funded by Chimney Rock Village, Rutherford County TDA, Appalachian Regional Commission, and private donations. 

Mayor Peter O’Leary addressed attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This project is due to the successful collaboration of sponsoring agencies,” he said. “We’re excited to continue building on the success of the Phase One Streetscape Project.”

Community leaders and key stakeholders involved in the streetscape project took up shovels for the ceremonial first dig that marked the beginning of Phase Two.

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