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Mill Street revitalization plan moves forward

This rendering shows the existing and proposed façades of the Balsam Falls Brewing building on Mill Street. MSSA photo This rendering shows the existing and proposed façades of the Balsam Falls Brewing building on Mill Street. MSSA photo

The Town of Sylva is embarking on a five-year plan to revitalize Mill Street with updated façades as part of the design pillar of the Main Street Sylva Association. 

“Our board of directors created a five-year strategic plan for Mill Street improvements with the goal to become as vibrant as Main Street is,” said Economic Development Director Bernadette Peters.

The board hopes to activate the Mill Street side of businesses to improve aesthetics, generate more traffic and build more bottom-level retail space.

The goals for the project are to create a façade grant to help incentivize property owners, explore technical assistance grant programs to assist business and property owners in expanding their space, create a property owner event for community and resource engagement and to create a streetscape improvement plan.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has completed renderings for all of the Mill Street rear façades.

“What UNCG does is they do some historical data from old Sanborn maps of these buildings, they look at possibilities of restoring architectural features and improving the look overall,” said Peters. “We’re really excited about these renderings.”

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The plan is to introduce the renderings to property owners when the Main Street Sylva Association gets funding for the façade grant. MSSA already received a $10,000 grant for the revitalization plan from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.

“We need about $15,000 more to offset the cost,” said Peters.

Business and property owners will fill out an application with plans for the work they want to complete. Once the work is done, owners will submit receipts and MSSA will offset the cost with grant funds.

“There have already been some great improvements on Mill Street and it’s creating momentum,” said Peters. “Not only that but with the public restrooms and the new lights and Bridge Park Renovations, it’s all kind of coming together.” 

Several property owners have renovated old spaces that were used for storage and are renting them out for office space or retail.

“We estimate that there’s probably six more potential spaces on Mill Street that could be activated,” said Peters.

MSSA is working toward a technical assistance grant to provide architectural services for people wanting to complete renovations of their space.

“We’ll look at a master design plan for refreshing Mill Street streetscape as well,” said Peters.

According to Town Manager Paige Dowling, Sylva has gotten a lot of attention for being the town with the smallest population in the full Main Street Program and not in the small-town Main Street Program, as well as being the westernmost town in the program until a couple years ago. Sylva joined the program in 1996 and has one of the most recent historic district designations.

“The program has been really good to Sylva, and I think these renderings are a testament of some special treatment that I feel like we’ve gotten that we’re grateful for,” said Dowling.

The historic district designation enables a lot of the contributing building owners to get tax credits of up to 40% to renovate their buildings.   

“I’ve been working with two building owners on that but we’re hoping to work with more of them as they get an interest in improving their buildings and that could significantly offset the cost,” said Peters.

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