Pinchok: Tourism $ return could be enhanced with town center

With tourism dollar investment in a nearby Southern city showing a huge return, Farragut Vice Mayor Ron Pinchok expressed hope that a new revenue stream with a similar type of return could be realized in Town of Farragut.

Tying into enhancing Town tourism is the latest talk about planning for a town center. Both subjects were part of the Town’s Economic Development Advisory Board’s first Wednesday of the month meeting Dec. 6 in Town Hall.

Pinchok was among Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen who traveled to Charlotte in late November for the annual National League of Cities Conference. Mayor Ralph McGill and Aldermen Louise Povlin, Ron Williams and Bob Markli joined Pinchok.

Referring to Visit Charlotte, that city’s tourism development arm, Pinchok said during a report to EDAC, “They came back and they said, ‘For every dollar spent [on tourism] the return on investment was $115.’ Quite substantial.

“[Visit] Charlotte said from the information that was gathered, ‘That over 50 percent of the visitors were visiting relatives and friends,’” he added, “I think in a small community like ours it’s probably higher, like maybe 75 percent or more.”

When such people visit Farragut, “What can we do to entertain those people?” Pinchok said. “I think that’s the key, as far as tourism, is coming up with businesses, from an economic development standpoint, that can entertain our guests when they are here.

“A mixed-use town center hopefully will have venues where maybe we can have entertainment on weekends, [such as] concerts,” he said after the meeting.

Pinchok also pointed out “development of a downtown“ as the first of eight “strategies” listed on the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which currently is being updated.

If serious about developing a downtown, he said, “We need a plan.”

As for a basic plan, Pinchok said, “The main thing is a place where people can live, work and play.

“And it’s not just the new generations, it’s the seniors also. The senior citizens are wanting the same thing,” he added. “A lot of senior citizens, a lot of young people, they don’t want to have to worry about maintaining a lawn and maintaining a house.”

Proximity also is attractive with both age groups according to Pinchok.

“They want to be able to live where they can walk to a place to eat and walk to work,” he said. “So maybe there will be places there within the mixed-use town center where they could work during the day, and have their meals right there and then go off to their loft or condominium — it’s all within walking distance,” saying, ‘I don’t want to drive all over the place.’”

As for a timetable, Pinchok said, “There’s a lot of planning. This may take 10, 15, 20 years to be completed.”

As for proposed “town center” locations, Pinchok said, “We’re looking at the Ford property [60 acres bordering Kingston Pike]. … The Biddle property, where the old Kroger is [along Kingston Pike across from Farragut High School’s south entrance], behind it, possibly, [when] the property would become available.”

“The Ford and the Biddle properties both are roughly 68 acres each,” Smoak said.

As for specific features included in a Town Center, Pinchok said, “I would love to see a four-story hotel. I like the idea of a farmer’s market, and a common area … right in the middle [where] you could have weekend concerts.

“I think what we’re looking for is a place place where people can just relax with the family,” he added after the meeting. “We could have some of our Town events there, maybe the lighting of a formal Christmas tree. … An area in the middle of Town where we could have a gathering place like that.”

In reference to City of Alcoa’s development of its business district, which the Board learned about after a few members visited Blount County’s second largest city Nov. 28, Pinchok said, “This is well thought-out. It took a lot of time to develop this plan of mixed use,” which includes business, residential and greenspace incorporated into one area.