With cultural tourism key to the Qualla Boundary’s economic future, Cherokee Preservation Foundation has been working with the Eastern Band of Indians (EBCI) Planning and Development Office to renovate the downtown and retail areas of Cherokee, NC, so they have a more traditional village appearance and visual appeal.
Downtown revitalization became a top priority as a result of the Vision Qualla planning process initiated and led by the Foundation in 2004. Community members participating in the planning effort determined that necessary improvements should include façade and roof renovations throughout downtown, pedestrian-friendly walkways, more plantings and seating, and directional signage.
The Foundation provided $2.7 million to help the community address initial priorities. Since then, it has made additional investments totalling $1.5 to enable upgrading of the Cherokee Transit system so visitors and local residents can park and ride, decorative streetlamps and energy efficient lighting fixtures throughout downtown, greenway development, replacement of tepees in downtown locations (which are not part of the Cherokee culture) with authentic Cherokee summer home structures, and more.
In 2006, the Foundation helped establish the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce so local businesses could unite and develop new avenues of promotion.
One measure of success of the Foundation’s investment in downtown Cherokee is the change in tribal levy (sales tax) income. The levy has risen every year since work on downtown revitalization commenced.