Study Calls for More Visitors to the Village
Thursday, June 7, 2018
by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
The Sewanee Village will have a different look by 2022, including a new bookstore, added housing and the possible completion of a grocery store four times the size of Sewanee Market.
University of the South leaders have tabbed these projects as three of the primary goals in the Village Implementation Plan, but coupled with retail and housing additions, is the aim to bring in more visitors to help support the local economy.
Frank Gladu, special assistant to Sewanee Vice Chancellor John McCardell, broached the topic of tourists at the monthly Village update meeting on June 5 at the Blue Chair Tavern.
“What does an increase in visitors to Sewanee look like and how can we achieve it?” he asked the eight people who attended the meeting.
The ongoing Market Analysis Demand study from consultant Randall Gross of Development Economics states that Sewanee needs to increase its draw to visitors, Gladu said.
“Randall Gross’ premise is that we should be a cultural hub, that we should be a heritage location that capitalizes on what we already have,” Gladu said. “To some degree recreation, but more importantly, arts, in the performing arts, the visual arts, and the written, intellectual.”
He said Gross may or may not be correct in advising a cohesive plan to promote Sewanee as an arts attraction, but he is right that Sewanee needs more visitors.
Local resident Jane Fort questioned an effort to turn up the tourist magnet.
“Is that kind of development really what Sewanee traditionally would want or should look like? I don’t see it as a tourist mecca,” she said.
Gladu said Sewanee is not known as a tourist destination, but there is an indication of untapped interest.
“Going back to the premise of the economist, could we be an arts destination?” he asked.
Looking at regional draws that may spill tourist money into Sewanee, former Sewanee resident John Greeter cited The Caverns, a music venue that opened earlier this year in a cave in Pelham, a short drive from Sewanee.
Greeter, who now lives in Manchester, said he attended the update meeting because he’s looking to move back to Sewanee.
New housing in the Village’s future could help free up space for Greeter’s return in what is now a tight housing market. Gladu talked about plans for housing as one of the five primary goals of the Village plan—those goals that could see substantial completion by 2022.
The primary aim of new housing is to help University employees live on the Domain, Gladu noted. He added that among the planned apartments, townhomes and duplexes, there will also be cottage or bungalow style homes, small starter houses that Sewanee is severely lacking.
“That is the low-hanging fruit, smaller homes and, of course, some rental units,” he said.
Developers will add additional housing above the new grocery store, which will boast three floors, the upper two containing 18 to 20 apartments, Gladu said.
He noted that the store will be about 10,000 square feet, more theanfour times the size of Sewanee Market.
Another primary goal of the plan is the Village Green, which will be where Sewanee Market is currently located. Gladu said the space will complement Angel Park and provide a larger area for concerts and events.
Gladu added that the new University bookstore between the Sewanee Post Office and Tower Community Bank building is well past the design phase.
“That project is probably leading the pack; we’ll be equipped to break ground this summer on that project,” he said. “By August of next year that should be ready to house the new bookstore.”
In addition to the bookstore, Village Green, housing and the grocery store, the fifth primary goal of the Village Implementation Plan is the narrowing of U.S. Highway 41A between Kentucky Avenue and Kennerly Road to two lanes. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is leading that revamp, which will slow traffic through the Village, Gladu said.