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Town considers building new visitors center

Main Street in Jonesborough could look significantly different within the next five years if town leaders go through with a recommended plan to create a visitors center in the downtown area.
According to town officials, the concept of a downtown visitors center annex was recommended in two different studies commissioned by the BMA.
“We’re tentatively looking at putting it where the Christopher Taylor log cabin sits,” Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “The plan would be to relocate the log cabin.”
The facility would provide a headquarters for walking tours, which would be a main feature offered to visitors through the center, officials said. The annex would also serve as a “trail head” for the Lost State ScenicWalkway, as well as a drop-off spot for tour buses, according to Town Administrator Bob Browning.
At last week’s Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, elected officials took the first step in securing funding for the possible project by giving Browning the go-ahead to apply for a state grant.
The Enhancement Grant, funded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, could provide the town with approximately $1.3 million for the construction of the center. If awarded, the town would be required to match 20 percent of the grant, or an estimated $417,000.
Officials planned to fund the town’s portion of the money through the Courthouse Square Revitalization and Tourism Development Zone, which does not yet exist.
A bill to create the zone, which would return additional sales tax money earned within its boundaries to the town, was pulled from the state’s budget at the last minute earlier this year. However, town leaders have been actively courting state officials in hopes of getting the zone approved for the next fiscal year.
Projects funded through the Enhancement Grant typically take about five years to complete, officials said.
While the BMA unanimously approved the request to seek the grant funding, the vote did not commit the town to actually accepting the matching grant.