Allison: “It’s Pulaski’s time, it’s our time.”

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

“From Pennington Gap, Va. to my hometown of Tazewell, to right here on this doorstep, it has been a belief throughout Southwest Virginia that we’ve been cursed by the big businesses moving into our small towns, bringing booming industry and hope, and then leaving the citizens with old empty buildings and the feeling of hopelessness.

“When I look around … I see a gift from those before us; structures that were built and lasted the test of time. Now, it is their time. It is Pulaski’s time and it is our time.”

That was the message Luke Allison of West Main Development had for a group of citizens and officials gathered on Main Street in Pulaski Tuesday afternoon.

Allison was speaking in front of 85 W. Main St. – a building that will house a New Orleans-style café in several months.

The occasion was the kick-off of a project to breathe life back into two buildings that serve as the pilot project for Pulaski’s downtown revitalization: Crescent City Café and Next Level Virtual Reality, to be located on the corner of West Main and Jefferson Avenue.

Allison said those two buildings are “just the first of many with the potential to not change Pulaski, but make it shine like we know it can.”

While most businesses hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies when they’re ready to open for business. Allison and his fellow entrepreneurs and West Main Development President Steve Critchfield held a sledgehammer and hard-hat ceremony. They were marking the beginning of renovations on both buildings.

Critchfield, who Allison referred to as the “Pied Piper of Pulaski,” noted it took several years to get to Tuesday’s point, but it’s exciting to finally get the renovation work underway.

Recognizing financiers; local, state and federal officials, and others in attendance, Critchfield said a lot of people have been pitching in to make the project happen.

“We dubbed this the pilot project, but it’s more than just the pilot project of two buildings,” he said. “This is more like the start of a whole new era for Pulaski.”

He said the goal is to revitalize the whole downtown and make it “an exciting place for younger people to move in and start their businesses, raise families — literally get the town to come back to life.”

One of four apartments to be constructed in the upper portions of the two buildings already is leased, he added.

Pulaski Mayor David Clark called the day an “exciting time for our downtown.”

Having grown up in Pulaski, Clark recalled how he and his sister would walk downtown to spend their allowances; and how his parents brought them down there to buy clothes and shoes.

“This was a vibrant place. There were people always milling about. Main Street was called that because it was the center of the community,” Clark said. “Like most small towns, we drifted away from that and the sense of community left in doing so. Now it’s on it’s way back.”

Allison said the project set a precedent for Southwest Virginia by developing a “template for acquiring funding for small-town projects and historic structures, including historic tax credits.”

He described Crescent City Café as being a “family and friend-oriented restaurant with a stage for live music and food with a new Orleans flare.”

Next Level Virtual Reality (VR) will be “the venue for a VR experience for people looking to expand their minds, people wanting to be entertained, or people just wanting to reach an unreachable location, like the peak of the Roman Empire in 117 A.D. or Jamestown in the early 1600s.

A number of state and federal officials attended the ceremony, including 7th District Delegate Chris Hurst, as well as representatives of 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

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