The revitalization group began when a handful of Cullowhee residents and business owners started talking about what makes Cullowhee unique and the community’s potential. During the past six months, those conversations grew into an organization with a vision: a vibrant downtown Cullowhee that reflects the culture, history and natural beauty of the area.
“When you begin talking with Cullowhee residents, you quickly notice that they care deeply about this place,” said Blake, who moved to Cullowhee last year to join the faculty at Western Carolina University. “They’re concerned about issues like litter and traffic accidents along Old Cullowhee Road, and many would love see that stretch spruced up a little.”
Norman West, owner of Cullowhee Real Estate and CuRvE community liaison, said he remembers when the area hosted a range of restaurants and about 45 businesses.
“Now, there’s only about a dozen,” said West, who began working in Cullowhee in 1965 in the clothing business before moving into real estate. “I think CuRvE can help individual business owners work together, and I hope it will do some good.”
CuRvE’s short-term goals include hosting roadside and river clean-up activities, enhancing landscaping, documenting the history of the Cullowhee community along the Tuckasegee River, and building relationships within the community and with community revitalization partners.
Long-term goals include supporting current businesses and attracting new dining, shopping and entertainment venues; building safe paths that connect the area to the Western Carolina University campus; and increasing the availability of clean, attractive and affordable housing.
In addition, CuRvE members will explore the possibility of a park along the Tuckasegee River that features fishing spots, picnic tables, trails and a whitewater recreation area.
Duke Energy already plans to improve canoeing and kayaking access to the river above and below the dam in Cullowhee, enhance the entrance to the property, construct additional parking, and add landscaping. Blake said the plans particularly interested CuRvE members after hearing a WCU student’s presentation last spring about the successful use of river park and whitewater areas to boost economic development in communities across the country.
Part of why Herzog said she has loved living in the community for the past 18 years is the natural beauty of the mountains and rivers surrounding Cullowhee.
Cullowhee business owners, such as Lori Richards, owner of The Music Village and Suds Your Duds laundromat, also are interested in supporting the revitalization effort.
“CuRvE is offering to partner with businesses to enhance the beauty of Cullowhee and encourage people to spend more time here. That’s good for business,” said Richards. “I’m excited about the possibilities.”
“We hope anyone interested in learning how they can help support revitalization along Old Cullowhee Road near Western Carolina University will join us at the open house,” Blake said.