​Sewanee Village Update: Why Visit Sewanee?

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“It’s essential for existing businesses and to attract new businesses to identify what will attract populations close to us to visit Sewanee,” said Frank Gladu, introducing the topic for the Sept. 3 Sewanee Village Update meeting. Gladu oversees the Sewanee Village initiative charged with guiding and directing long-term development in downtown Sewanee. In conjunction with increasing housing, a key component of the project, the plan envisions apartments on the second floor of buildings offering retail space on the ground floor in the area near the heart of downtown.

Gladu posed the question, “What are the attractions that will draw visitors from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Huntsville and Nashville?”

Speaking on behalf of the Sewanee Business Alliance, Jimmy Wilson said plans were underway for billboards on east and west bound I-24 “emphasizing the scenic and historic nature of Sewanee.” Conversation is underway with the University for permission to depict landmark structures such as All Saints’ Chapel.

Realtor and resident Lynn Stubblefield pointed to the South Cumberland Plateau being home to the largest park system in the state, offering hiking, camping, rock climbing and more.

Others cited the local trails as a draw, as well as the golf course, the numerous artists and art galleries, music venues, and the quaintness of a small town where “you can turn your kids loose to play.”

Gladu suggested, “Going back in time” as a possible theme for a campaign geared to draw visitors.

He anticipates input on vitalizing Sewanee tourism from the Carey Fellows of the Babson Center for Global Commerce and a spring project by Middle Tennessee State University tourism majors. He also expects guidance from a new Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development project focusing on tourism on the South Cumberland Plateau.

Asked about the Village Green proposed for central downtown at the location of the current Sewanee Market, Gladu said he estimated the size at approximately an acre. He hopes to engage a landscape architect before the end of the year to create a conceptual design of what the space will include and the cost. Both restrooms and a stage are being considered.

On the subject of housing, Gladu said BP Construction intended to convene a housing focus group this fall. The developer has completed a schematic design for a mixed-use retail and apartment building on the lot where the Hair Depot is currently located. Plans call for a 5,000 square foot food market and 2,000 square feet of other retail on the ground floor and 12 apartments on the second floor, six studio apartments and six one-bedroom apartments.

“BP needs to have confidence that what they invest in to build will sell or lease,” Gladu stressed. The developer will not begin construction on the mixed-use building until 60 percent of the space is leased.

The need for University employee housing drives the housing initiative, Gladu explained. “Gentrification has negated the ability of faculty and staff to live on the Domain,” Gladu said citing both the high purchase price and high cost of renovating old homes. “There’s no place for employees to live. We’re trying to create a housing inventory more compatible with what people need, want, and can afford.”

BP will direct the housing focus group at faculty and staff as the initial target market for housing they construct.