February 4, 2018
Work could begin within weeks on projects in Fieldale and Bassett that are part of the Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project.
The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 23 awarded two contracts in connection with the project. Frith Construction of Henry County was awarded a contract for $401,947 for streetscape and grounds improvements at the Fieldale Recreation Center, and Daniel & Co. Inc. of Richmond was awarded a $764,874 contract for improvements to the Bassett Historic Train Depot.
Now, consulting engineers with Hill Studio, which designed the projects, are working on the contracts. Lee Clark, director of planning, zoning and Inspections for Henry County, said he anticipates the contracts will be finalized and signed within the coming weeks.
“Once they are signed, they (Frith Construction and Daniel & Co.) will check their schedules and we’ll set start dates for both. It should be shortly,” Clark said, adding that he expects that will happen “well before spring. … It will be up to the contractors. They are ready to go.”
The Bassett work should be completed within six months and the Fieldale work will be a little sooner, he added.
The work in Fieldale will be done outside the recreation center. It includes resurfacing the tennis court area, turning it into a multi-purpose area for tennis, basketball and volleyball, Clark said. Fencing around that area also will be replaced.
A “first-class covered stage area” and small dance area will be built to the front right of the property for concerts, he said.
“This will be a huge upgrade to the facility there and enable them to put on very professional-looking events and (be) more accommodating to the bands and the people there to enjoy the bands,” Clark said.
New sidewalks will be installed throughout the grounds. Additional handicapped sidewalk ramps that are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant will be installed, and light landscaping work will be done.
A playground area will be created between the stage and tennis court/sports area. There is not enough money now to buy playground equipment, but the area will be prepared for a future installation, Clark said.
Frith Construction had the low bid of three firms that submitted for the Fieldale work. Clark said adjustments were made to the tennis court area plans to lower the price to fit the project’s budget.
The Bassett Train Depot project also was negotiated to fit the budget. Daniel & Co. was the sole bidder with an original proposal of $927,393. Through adjustments and changes, Clark said that figure was negotiated down to $764,874.
“I’m pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish with their (Daniel & Co.) cooperation,” he said, adding that was accomplished in one week between the date when bids were opened and when the proposal had to go to the supervisors for last week’s vote.
“They were wonderful to work with. I can’t say enough about their responsiveness and willingness to work with us to get it within budget. … I look forward to working with them on the construction,” Clark added.
The project involves converting the former train depot into an “events space” inside while keeping the historic features and feel of the site, Clark said.
High-efficiency heating and air conditioning units and new light fixtures will be installed throughout the depot, and a stage with audio and video capabilities will be created at one end of the large raised room on the left side of the building as it faces the railroad tracks.
The deck on the railroad side of the building will be replaced and railing and lighting will be installed. Glass doors will provide access to the deck from the dock area.
The existing sliding wooden doors to the outside will be retained. Steps will be taken to make them as weather-tight as possible, he added.
The interior brick and rafters are being retained, Clark said. “We didn’t want to lose the feel of the historic character of that space,” he added.
On one end of the main events space will be a handicapped-accessible unisex bathroom, a mechanical room and storage and service space. A handicapped lift will help people get from that level to the lower level.
Off that raised room will be a historical document space with photographs, drawings and other materials depicting the history of Bassett, Bassett Furniture Industries and the depot, Clark said.
On the lower level of the building, new wiring and plumbing will be installed along with a new handicapped-accessible bathroom and handicapped ramps outside facing Sunset Drive.
A warming kitchen will enable depot users to bring in catered food. It will be a substantial size but not a full commercial kitchen, Clark said.
Installing a commercial kitchen was discussed but rejected, Clark said, because “We weren’t willing to affect the exterior of the depot with the hoods and vent fans required of a commercial kitchen.”
“We didn’t see it as a plus for that facility. People can bring in catered food,” he added.
Also, a commercial kitchen would have needed approval from the state Department of Historic Resources, which could have been difficult to obtain due to the buildings being located within an eligible historic district.
The exterior of the depot is not being changed. All the brick is being repaired and repointed, and the exterior wood is being repaired and replaced as needed and will be repainted, Clark said.
Finally, the project includes a gateway sign at the corner of Carson Drive at the entrance to downtown Bassett on Fairystone Park Highway, Clark said.
The Bassett and Fieldale projects “are a tremendous amount of work. (With an) end result I think everybody will be proud of,” he said, but added, “…We’re not finished by any means.”
Negotiations still are underway with Daniel & Co. for streetscape work in Bassett, and Clark said efforts are being made to work with Fieldale property owners on facade improvements across from the recreation center.
“We need them to contact us,” he said of the property owners. “Maybe they are busy, but now is the time. We need to sit down and get them to agree to the improvements so we can put them out to bid.”
The Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project is being funded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, Appalachian Regional Commission, Bassett Furniture Industries, Eastman Chemical, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and The Harvest Foundation.
The revitalization project began in 2013 with the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, an initiative of The Harvest Foundation. Its goal is to improve what it calls the “15 Magical Miles” in the unincorporated communities of Bassett, Fieldale, Stanleytown and Koehler.
“The collaborative came up with the ideas and we are bringing it to fruition,” Clark said, adding that the county’s involvement was required because of the different funders and the county’s experience in seeking state grants. “Since we had to be involved to make that happen, we’ve taken the ball and run with it.”
“Everyone is excited. It’s been a long time coming … but there’s never been a doubt in our mind that we’re going to make it happen,” Clark added.
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