A Rutherford County town is trying to preserve its past and build its future by focusing on a street that runs through it.
Several Smyrna town leaders gathered at Town Hall Monday morning to talk about the revitalization of Lowry Street.
In its heyday, Lowry Street was crowded with people and businesses, but the development of Sam Ridley Parkway to the northwest and Nissan Drive to the southeast in the late 1990s diverted traffic away from the downtown street.
“Watching all the development of the whole Sam Ridley thing was great, but I also saw the checking out of people in this area,” recalled Ron Alley, a local business owner.
Regal Furniture, at the corner of Lowry and Washington Streets, was the latest business to check out, after more than 50 years downtown.
The continued departure of people and businesses didn't deter Alley from investing in the area. He opened Carpe Café one year ago as a training center for his non-profit organization Carpe Artiste.
“It's Latin for 'seize the artist,'” said Alley.
The café, located at 115 Front Street, serves beverages and pastries while promoting local art through live music, art classes and much more. The cafe's dining room window overlooks Lowry Street.
“An ultimate thing we want to see happen, the people in Smyrna being able to just live in community with one another, to walk down the street and find a band playing on the front porch or sit and have a sandwich or coffee. You know, those kind of things,” Alley said.
Alley is not alone in his ideals.
Monday's meeting was scheduled to develop a mission statement, branding, and a task force for the project that will move revitalization efforts forward.
Plans are already underway to refurbish the railroad depot. A deal with Home Depot will take care of the bathrooms inside and the landscaping outside. Additional phases will work out from the depot.
Despite the determined focus of town leaders and community members, the project faces several challenges, geographically and financially.
Lowry Street is also US Highway 41, State Route 1, which means any changes affecting the roadway must go through Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Railroad tracks line one side of the road, limiting lot sizes and potential future development. Public-private partnerships would provide the best means of funding the project, but has yet to be worked out.
Bottom line, the project won't happen overnight, but Alley is willing to wait.
“I'm in it for the long haul. That's what I keep telling people about the café,” he said. “We're here to stay!”