Design would revitalize downtown Loudon riverfront

9:23 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Old, abandoned industrial buildings line a section of the riverfront in Loudon, but a design in the works would turn what most call an eyesore, into a downtown destination.

The owner of the Hutch buildings wants to sell the property, and the East Tennessee Community Design Center went to the drawing board.

"We create the pretty pictures to try to sell the project, and then we show it to the public and let them know that their input was listened to," said Leslie Fawaz, with the Community Design Center.

The plan would demolish four buildings, maintain four others, create a new city hall, and give the signature water tower a facelift.

"We kind of call it the Eiffel Tower of Loudon, so we would like it to be renovated and painted with logos of Loudon," said Fawaz.

The design could also lead to a new library, green space, housing, and a farmers market, among other potential developments on the prime time real estate.

"I just think it's a wonderful property. There's a beautiful view from the bridge when you're driving over it," said Fawaz. "It has so much potential and has views from the river; it's just a beautiful asset. It's been manufacturing, but now it could really help the community."

Business owners told 10News the design would help bring in foot traffic to their storefronts and restaurants.

"This could be a goin' little town," said LaVerne Howard, with Mark's Diner in downtown Loudon. "I think it's really ambitious for the times."

Howard said the plan comes a little too late, after she said she has watched 23 business fail since 2006.

"Mainly they have failed because there's no sign, and no one knows how to get to them," said Howard. "Highway 11 runs straight through, and there aren't any signs to tell you where to turn. So by the time you get through town, you're out of town."

Howard said the needed signage is a work in progress, but she wished the effort to push the marketing was as strong as push for the CDC design has been.

"I think it's smart to pursue it, but I'm really frustrated that we're not pursuing taking care of our own businesses downtown," said Howard.

A public meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, February 26th at the Loudon Fire Hall so residents could check out the plans.

Fawaz said the next step would be the finding a developer to purchase the Hutch buildings from their current owner.

"Getting more people living and working and playing in downtown Loudon. that's really the goal of the project," said Fawaz. "Making it more pedestrian friendly, visitor friendly, it could make a huge difference to the whole town."

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