Drexel site master plan in the works

The former Drexel manufacturing plant site in Whittier is a step closer to its future. Jackson County was recently awarded a $10,000 grant, which will be put toward the preparation of a master plan for the site. 

The former furniture manufacturing facility — which shuttered in the late 1990s — sits on 36 acres along the Tuckasegee River. Over the course of the past year, several community input meetings have been held in an effort to decide how the county might best use the Drexel site, which it owns. Ideas have ranged from an agricultural center to a recreation site. Currently, the site has been dubbed the Smoky Mountain Agricultural Development Station. 

The recently-awarded grant comes from the Southwest Regional Commission. The funds are provided through the Commission’s Toolbox Implementation Fund program and the Appalachian Regional Commission. 

The $10,000 grant will be combined with money made from the sale of scrap metal and other materials on the property to pay for the master plan. The county has made about $11,500 from the scrap sales.

The master planning process will rely on community input, including the input already gathered at the community meetings. The planning process will identify compatible uses for the building and property. 

As part of the master planning process, a phase one environmental assessment will be performed. The county will need to know if any environmental contaminants are present on the site, and how such environmental issues would impact the site’s development. 

In the early part of this month, the county will send out RFPs, or Request for Proposals. By the end of June, it’s expected that a firm will be selected to prepare the master plan. 

According to Jackson County Planning Director Gerald Green, the master planning process will take a couple of months. He’s looking at a September completion date.

— Jeremy Morrison, news editor

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