RALEIGH, N.C. — A streetscape improvement project in the Ashe County town of West Jefferson led by the North Carolina Department of Transportation is attracting new business and breathing life back into the historic mountain town. Today, downtown West Jefferson is the type of place that begs you to stay a while — to take your time with a leisurely stroll down its charming Main Street, do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat. In the past two years, 10 new businesses have opened, tourism dollars have steadily increased, and the number of vacant storefronts and apartments has dropped from 33 to 5.
But it wasn’t always this way. Like many other small towns, West Jefferson was hard hit by the decline of its manufacturing industry, and just a few years ago, empty storefronts lined the once vibrant town center. Local leaders and business owners attribute the turnaround to a series of transportation investments that transformed the look and feel of the downtown area, making it a more inviting place.
“It’s a considerably different town aesthetically. It is pedestrian safe, it is pedestrian friendly, and the pedestrians are coming in mobs,” said Cabot Hamilton, executive director of the West Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.
These transportation improvements have helped create an attractive, family-friendly atmosphere that has drawn visitors back to the downtown area, and serve as a shining example of the enormous impact transportation investments can have on the economy of small town USA.
Watch this video to learn more about NCDOT’s work to revitalize West Jefferson.