2016 Best Public-Private Partnership
Spruce Pine, NC
Following construction of a local bypass highway, Spruce Pine Main Street found it necessary to develop a signage improvement program to direct people to Spruce Pine and to significant landmarks and destinations within its downtown district. In 2012, the Spruce Pine Main Street Design & Beautification Committee began developing a plan to create, construct and install decorative, customized wayfinding signs and trail markers.
The project was intended not only to provide needed signage but also to highlight the talents of local artisans. The Committee engaged Penland School of Crafts and Toe River Arts Council to help with signage design. The community's rich blacksmithing history is manifested in unique sign elements designed and crafted by local artisans, including portal sign bases and wayfinding sign finials. The Committee also collaborated with the NC Department of Transportation, property owners and the Town of Spruce Pine on sign placement.
The total project cost was $52,000, most of which covered by a US Department of Agriculture grant. The project, completed in December of 2015, created jobs for 6 artisans and used local businesses in every stage.
The new signage has led to an increase in downtown foot traffic and retail activity which resulted in a seven percent increase in sales tax revenue over the past three years. Drawn to pedestrian-friendly amenities such as Riverside Park, the Toe River, and greenway trails that are more evident thanks to the signage, the local community college acquired a vacant downtown coliseum and hotel and plans to open a satellite campus and 3,000-seat public venue. The project demonstrates how a public-private partnership can fill a functional need while promoting local artisans, celebrating a community's rich arts history and supporting local businesses.
The NC Department of Commerce - NC Main Street Center and Rural Planning Center congratulates Spruce Pine Main Street Design and Beautification Committee, US Department of Agriculture and Penland School of Crafts for this wonderful partnership!