Heartwood – The Southwest Virginia Artisan Gateway
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Heartwood is the latest and largest effort to market Southwest Virginia as a single, unified destination to benefit the economy of the entire region. The building and its combined initiatives will contribute to a sustainable economy by highlighting the unique natural assets of the region with the purpose of attracting tourism and high-end creative economy businesses. The facility will serve as the cultural and entrepreneurial introduction to the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton and Radford.
Heartwood will be a structure inspired by the spirit and character of Southwest Virginia. Elements of agricultural buildings and structures, native to the settlers of the area, served as the inspiration for a distinctive and dynamic building. Designed by award-winning architects, Spectrum Design of Roanoke and built by MB Contractors, Inc., the 29,000-square-foot (2,700 m2) building will sit on eight acres alongside Interstate 81. The LEED Registered building will feature artisan galleries, a premium restaurant and food court with locally supplied organic fare, video portraits of musicians, craftspeople, and places to visit. Interactive maps of the region will highlight destinations for visitors and those considering relocation to our area. The center will showcase exhibits and demonstrations by local artisans and will serve as a major venue on the Crooked Road, Virginia and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail, complete with professionally produced musical performances. The building will also house the offices of the 'Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network and The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.
Just as Heartwood is the physical symbol of the region’s new “Creative Economy,” the Southwest Virginia website will serve as a virtual gateway. The visually dynamic “electronic destination” will feature interactive trip planning services providing visitors with information on where to stay, where to dine, and where to visit based on their interests, directing them throughout the entire region. The website will feature video profiles with stories of the people, places, and activities that make Southwest Virginia an inviting destination to discover. Keeping with the innovative nature of the building and its initiatives, the site allows for exploration in three different ways: “geographically,” through the use of interactive maps; by “personal guide,” featuring residents with a wide range of interests discussing their favorite places to visit; and “thematically,” for those looking for a specific experience such as outdoor recreation, crafts, music, or other cultural destinations. In addition to the “Plan a Trip” function of the site, visitors will also be given an opportunity to “Plan a Lifetime.” Targeted links will provide information on real estate, human resources, and economic development assistance to potential manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and individuals.
The communities of Southwest Virginia and their cultural assets, affectionately known as “The String of Pearls,” are connected through The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission. Established by the General Assembly in 2008, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission is the coordinating body for the blend of cultural heritage tourism and economic development efforts fostering Southwest Virginia’s new economy. Consisting of 23 appointed members and an executive director, Todd Christensen, the commission provides vision, guidance, and marketing resources to sustain and grow the economy through cultural heritage ventures related to tourism and other asset-based enterprises. In three years, Heartwood is expected to attract more than 270,000 visitors, generate $2.2 million in revenue, and result in a total economic impact in excess of $28 million to the region.
Heartwood, the Southwest Virginia Artisan Gateway, is being developed and will be operated by the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission. Additional development partners include the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, 'Round the Mountain, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. The Project is being funded by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Department of Housing and Community Development in association with the Appalachian Regional Commission and Community Development Block Grant program, Washington County, VA, the Town of Abingdon, VA, and The Virginia Highlands Community College.
The building will be owned and maintained by People Inc. of Abingdon, Virginia, a non-profit Community Action Agency and Community Development Corporation committed to providing opportunities for people to reach their goals in order to enhance their lives, families, and communities.
In addition to the above, the Heartwood management team consisting of numerous government, educational, and tourism partners throughout the 19 county region have assisted in providing guidance and oversight for the project.
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