Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s message to the crowd at the historic Half Way House Restaurant on Route 1 last week was simple.
“Virginia has a lot to offer, but it’s not all along Interstate 95, [Interstate] 81 or [Interstate] 64,” he said. “You don’t have to just buzz through.”
At a press conference last week, Bolling, along with representatives of the Jefferson Davis Association, members of the Board of Supervisors and other officials, introduced a streetscape project along Jefferson Davis Highway and a new website promoting Route 1 throughout the country, www.HistoricRouteOne.com .
“This is National Tourism Week, and I can’t think of a better time to kick this off,” Bolling said. In Virginia, tourism generates $19.2 billion a year and supports 210,000 jobs, he said.
The Jefferson Davis Association, a nonprofit organization, was created in 1992 by civic and business leaders to address revitalization challenges facing the historic Route 1 corridor in Chesterfield County, according to information from the association. The county’s Board of Supervisors adopted the Jefferson Davis Corridor Plan in 1993.
JDA Vice President Sterry McGee said the streetscape project is actually three separate projects. One of the three is the installation of four fixed “Welcome to Chesterfield County” signs. Two monument signs will be placed at the county line at NAPA Auto Parts and the DuPont Spruance Plant, and two entry signs will be placed on Route 1 northbound at Route 288 and southbound at Chippenham Parkway.
The first two of the four fixed signs should be up within 10 days, he said.
Probably two-thirds of the fabric signs, another of the three projects, have been put up on utility poles along the highway. As well as the main “Historic Route 1” fabric signs, there are several other designs that depict various sites along the corridor, such as the Village of Bensley and Falling Creek Bridge.
“It was very exciting to see the first signs,” he said.
Another of the three projects involved landscaping and sidewalk installation in the 7400 block of Jefferson Davis Highway, where five property owners gave the JDA permission to work on their land, McGee said.
The JDA was awarded Chesterfield County Community Development Block Grant funds for streetscape improvements;that funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to information from the JDA. Funding for the website was made possible by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau through the DHR Cost Share program.
At the press conference last week, JDA President Scott Rogers said working with the dedicated and creative community group allowed him to see how powerful collective passion can be when it’s focused on a goal.
“The leaders who join us today … have all stepped up to the plate to advocate for this project,” he said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker thanked former state Del. Sam Nixon, who sponsored the bill that was ultimately passed by the General Assembly designating the highway as “Historic Route 1” throughout Virginia. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the project is how the JDA partnered with other agencies and organizations, he said.
Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the state’s Department of Historic Resources, said the interactive website will feature not only the historical sites along Route 1 in Virginia, but also the assets that are all along the highway in other states. The site is really about connections, she said, and what its creators want to see is people making new memories along the route.
“Our motto is ‘Putting Virginia’s History to Work,’ and that’s what we’re doing today,” she said.
At last week’s event, Lisa Bailey, who’s been a member of the JDA’s board for seven years, said the revitalization will help keep the area attractive, warm and inviting so businesses and families will want to do business and live there. Much of the historic highway’s traffic was lost to I-95.
“We want to bring back business, traffic and families,” she said. “We want to have fun on Route 1.”