Bids may be sought this summer for Bassett improvement projects that are part of the Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project, according to a Henry County official.
Lee Clark, director of planning, zoning and inspections for Henry County, said design work is nearly completed and bids could be sought in the next few months for facade work and rebuilding of the Reed Stone block in downtown Bassett, and the building that houses the Hatley Seating upholstery business, located behind that block. Construction should begin in the fall, he added.
Bids should be sought this winter with construction likely in the spring for Bassett streetscape work, according to Clark’s office. That work includes two town greens behind the former train depot, a welcome sign and landscaping around the depot.
Jeb Bassett, senior vice president of Bassett Furniture Industries and co-chairman of the small towns collaborative, said bids for improvements to the former Bassett train depot could be sought this fall and awarded by the end of the year. Clark said construction probably will begin in early spring of 2018.
Clark and Bassett spoke Wednesday, May 3 at the depot at the announcement of the Bassett Highway 57 Cruise-in schedule for 2017. Both during that press conference and afterward, they gave an update on the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, which is working to improve the towns of Bassett, Fieldale, Stanleytown and Koehler.
“You will see a lot come to fruition in the next year,” Clark said, referring to plans for the train depot, market areas behind the depot and the adjacent Reed Stone block. He displayed a map that also showed a town square with a clock to the right of the depot.
On the Reed Stone block, decorative panels will be removed from the commercial buildings and the brick work will be restored. Sidewalks will be repaired and other work will be done as needed, Clark said.
The goal “is to make them (storefronts) attractive, rentable; to create an environment for people to want to locate here,” he said.
Bassett said he believes changes in Bassett started in May 2015, when Bassett Furniture Industries completed its Design Center.
The Design Center is in the former Nathan’s Department Store. Bassett Furniture uses the building for product development work and includes casegoods, accent pieces, upholstery, lighting, area rugs, wall art, mirrors and wall clocks, Bassett said. The company creates room settings which are photographed for its website and catalogs and also are the prototypes for its Bassett Furniture stores, he said.
Bullocks Service Station once carried Amoco gas, and then Union 76 and later BP gas. Now, it is being transformed into the home of the Smith River Outfitters while retaining some features of its heritage, Bassett said.
That work is more than 90 percent completed and should be done within 30 days, he added.
Sinks Barber Shop at the end of the Reed Stone block will have a reworked facade and open onto a terrace area, Bassett said.
Train depot improvements will include new landscaping, decking and railings on the outside; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); installation of a warming kitchen; handicapped accessibility and more, Bassett said. A new roof already has been installed on the building.
“The goal is to use it as we are today, as a community events center” that is representative of its proud heritage, he explained.
A food and/or kitchen car, possibly using a former rail car, could be added behind the depot in the future, Clark said. That could be done by a private entity, “someone with some vision. We’ll have done the hard work,” Clark said.
The Bassett Furniture main office, which was built in 1966, has undergone improvements to break rooms and rest rooms, and some individual work areas will be targeted next, Bassett said.
Clark showed a presentation board on other features of the projects. Photographs show wrought-iron railings that will be installed at the depot. Also, a “Bassett” welcome sign has been designed to replicate industrial metal on the border and wood in the center, reflecting the area’s manufacturing heritage. The font for the word “Bassett” matches the one that was on the Bassett Superior Lines plant, Clark said.
He also displayed a logo created by consultants for the collaborative that touts the area’s heritage of “Sawdust and Lint.” The displayed logo was re-designed to allow the Bassett Cruise-In to incorporate the text “old cars.”
Clark praised the sign and logo, adding, “I’ll be first in line if they put that on T-shirts.”
In addition, a clock that has J.D. Bassett and the year 1922 written on it will be incorporated into the improvements, according to Clark’s office.
The Harvest Foundation convened the collaborative, and planning began in 2015 for the first of four phases of the project. The estimated cost of the first phase is $3.2 million.
Clark noted that the collaborative is just that — a joint effort by numerous partners working to help the community “pull itself up by the bootstraps.” Those partners and sponsors include Henry County, The Harvest Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission, Bassett Furniture Industries, Eastman, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Dan River Basin Association and The Garden Club.
The first phase of the Smith River Small Towns project also includes improvements in Fieldale. They include work to the town square, community center (exterior) and grounds. Design work is ongoing for the central business district; streetscape work in the central business district and a welcome sign also are planned.