​Sewanee Village Update: Tourism Ideas and Initiatives

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The February Sewanee Village update meeting focused on tourism as a component of the plan to renovate and rejuvenate the downtown area. Explaining the emphasis on tourism, Sewanee Village Plan coordinator Frank Gladu said, the intention is “to create opportunities so not just the people who live here but also visitors support area businesses and perhaps justify new ones.” Gladu discussed three local tourism initiatives.

During the fall semester, the Carey Fellows, sponsored by the University Babson Center for Global Commerce, researched Sewanee tourism. The students made five recommendations for vitalizing Sewanee’s attraction to tourists: a robust website; a tourism coordinator; student apartments downtown, perhaps as an entitlement to seniors; business incentives in the form of lease reduction proportional to the amount invested; and a village hotel with a nightly rate of $100-$250. The students emphasized affordability, Gladu said, noting an alumni survey likewise cited a need for affordable places to stay.

Touching on another student tourism-research effort, Gladu provided an overview of a spring semester class at Middle Tennessee State University for Tourism and Hospitality majors. The class guides students delving into the Sewanee tourism question. Gladu recently met with the group. The class also plans to meet with Sewanee Village Plan Development Economist Randall Gross.

The third tourism-focused effort comes from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The mission of creating economic vitality in the state prompted the southern Chattanooga district to embrace a tourism-driven plan encompassing the Plateau from Sewanee to Beersheba Springs. A fall survey generated a brand for the area, the Tennessee South Cumberland, with the tagline “Mountains of Adventure.” Suggested subheading topics include “Mountains of History,” “Mountains of Deliciousness” (i.e., restaurants and food initiatives), and “Mountains of Entertainment” (i.e., the Caverns music venue).

The project coordinators “would like the different areas to come up with their own stories,” Gladu said. He stressed the project was still in its infancy, but he noted the branding exercise has propelled the effort to the grant writing stage. Gladu lauded the momentum behind the initiative, particularly the work of Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady. “Brady’s tenacious on tourism and has been very involved.”

Turning to progress on the Sewanee Village priority projects, Gladu said the Tennessee Department of Transportation had moved into the right-of-way phase on the plan to narrow U.S. Highway 41A. The proposal calls for a drainage easement and minor temporary construction easements as well as a few small acquisitions to create turn radiuses. TDOT will hold a public information session in March, possibly in conjunction with the Sewanee Village update meeting.

Commenting on the progress of the bookstore, Gladu said, “Not much appears to be happening on the exterior, but a lot is happening on the interior.” The bookstore dedication is scheduled for 4 p.m., Friday, April 24.