Unicoi County

Erwin revitalization project focuses on flood management

ERWIN, Tenn. - Torn up pavement and closed streets in downtown Erwin, are signs that another phase of the town's revitalization project is underway.

It's been about six months since the first phase finished in October, which included ripping out some streets, replacing sidewalks and installing underground utilities.

Phase one took place between Town Hall and Gay Street and that's where phase two has picked up.

The town blocked off Main Street between Gay and Union Streets on Tuesday, as they continued construction.

We're told it's caused empty tables at the Choo Choo Cafe, located on Main Street. The cafe has been cut off from traffic.

"Everything is under construction so if you can't get to us then we're empty," said Brenda Hawley, the owner of the cafe.

Down the road, Union Street has been completely torn up to put in a flood mitigation system. We're told that's the main focus of phase two.

City recorder Glenn Rosenoff said they'll insert a box culvert below the street to channel storm water and hopefully reduce flooding.

The rest of the project, he said, will focus on improving traffic patterns and the look of downtown.

"You're looking at total overhaul of the roads, the sidewalks, to lighting," said Rosenoff. "Utilities will be placed underground."

He told us they've taken out a $3.5 million loan to pay for phase two and three of the revitalization. Phase one cost a little more than a million dollars, Rosenoff said.

The town hopes the project will bring more tourism and business into the downtown area.

"Return on the investment that after the design is done, the construction is done, that it will stimulate the economy downtown," said Rosenoff.

Brenda Hawley, at the Choo Choo Cafe, told us it's worth a few empty tables now.

"To go to the next phase for the town, we have to suffer this time but it will be worth it," said Hawley.

We're told phase two of construction will be finished by this year's Apple Festival.
The town will work on the section of downtown between Love and Church Streets during phase three. They are still planning that part of the project.

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