DOBSON — Judging by the voices ringing out in support of the project, a move by the Surry County Board of Commissioners last night could go a long way toward revitalizing the town of Elkin.
The board approved an incentive package for the town during its Tuesday night meeting, which was postponed one day due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Under the package, the county will invest up to $37,000 over the next five years toward the conversion of the former Liberty Building, located at 222 E. Main St.
In supporting the measure, board Chair Eddie Harris said the money being invested in the venture is nothing to sneeze at.
“It’s a fairly significant investment in the county, of about $1.6 million, with some expectation that it could exceed that number in the future,” he said. “We feel like an investment that significant, that mirrors Elkin’s economic development strategy, is quite important in the scope of helping the town’s revitalization efforts.”
According to Harris, the developer of the project will be constructing a banquet hall, retail and office space and restaurant in the former theater.
Plans call for the construction of 9,000 square feet of space that can be used for meetings or conventions; a main reception hall that will hold up to 450 guests; private rooms that will be available for bridal showers, weddings or other functions with less than 100 people. In addition, the plans call for an in-house restaurant as well as retail and office space.
During a hearing on the matter, property owner Cicely McCulloch noted that construction on the property already is benefiting local businesses.
“Eighty percent of the builders and contractors we’ve had working on the property are Surry County residents,” she said.
It was a message heartily endorsed by Harris, whose district includes the town of Elkin.
“I think this is a very worthy project that bodes well for downtown Elkin,” he said. “I don’t know that the town has received this kind of monetary investment in many, many years.”
Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens told the board that town leaders are “very excited” about the possibility of the new business.
“It’s good to think that we can make downtown Elkin alive again,” she said. “This will be a place for celebrations, and we’re very appreciative of the county backing us up on this project.”
Todd Tucker, director of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, said his office whole-heartedly supports the $37,000 investment by the county.
“We normally don’t get involved in things like this, but this is a prime example of what we want economic development to do,” he said. “(McCulloch) has created a project and we’re getting many more local companies involved in it. This is a great thing for Elkin and a great fit for the future of Surry County.”
Harris said he hopes last night’s move will “be a catalyst for additional investment in the area.”
On a motion by Commissioner Paul Johnson and with a “big second” by Commissioner Jimmy Miller, the board unanimously approved the proposal.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.