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Mountain City, a diamond in the rough?

By Tamas Mondovics

An interesting press release came across my desk last week, entitled “Abingdon Main Street awarded $12,000 in downtown investment funds for façade improvement.”

Okay, so you might ask why is this fruit for thought to include in this week’s Tomahawk editorial? Well, let me answer that question with a question. Have you seen downtown Mountain City? Granted, I must qualify this question by saying that I love this town including its beautiful brick sidewalks and historic buildings. It might be good to mention that while it is wishful thinking, I am not talking about our little town needing a full-blown streets cape, but that a little TLC is definitely due and, would go a long way.

Let’s go back to this Abingdon investment fund just for a minute. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that Abingdon Main Street has been awarded the grant, which will be matched by an additional $10,000 grant from the Abingdon Economic Development Authority, and used for façade improvements in Abingdon’s historic downtown district.

All this means is that businesses located within the Abingdon Main Street footprint can now apply for funding to offset the costs of improving and rehabilitating their storefronts. Funds may only be used for exterior improvements. The selected businesses will also qualify for free design plans from Frazier and Associates Architects. Standard upgrade stuff, right?

“We want downtown Abingdon to be a vibrant area that will attract and sustain small businesses,” said Carrie Baxter, Executive Director of Abingdon Main Street. “History is such an important part of Abingdon’s identity, and these funds will preserve those historic properties and make Abingdon more attractive to visitors and new businesses.”

All of this, of course, is great for Abingdon, already a vibrant city with its countless historic brick buildings that line Main Street, most of them adorned with plenty of seasonal decoration as well as a brief historical description not to mention its resident’s pride and joy; Barter Theater.

And that brings me back to my new town, Mountain City. I would love to invite my friends to visit without first warning them about some of the blight right within the heart of downtown, which I believe a little paint here and there, could indeed fix.

As far as some of the more significant, visual and structural concerns go, like the damaged or altogether missing bricks from many of the structures, makes me wonder how safe they are and how long before a portion of or an entire building itself comes crumbling down.

I know that every place, and that includes Abingdon has its skeletons and spots that require some improvement and adjustment. I am also well aware that caring for any place can be a constant struggle. But there is a limit to the madness, and I hope that our city and county officials will soon be inclined to do a bit more than just agree with the obvious.

Yes, a little streetscape, here and there, which of course would require some commitment and dedication on the part of the local leadership, would go a long way. Mountain City is rightfully proud of its musical heritage, and there is
no doubt about all of the potential, on its own merit, to rival any small town in the country, including Abingdon.
So, depending on how you look at it, Mountain City may be or could be a more beautiful gem to visit and enjoy living in. nUnfortunately, for now, at least to some degree it remains a diamond in the rough.