Benches in uptown Hillsboro that created some curiosity when they were moved last week were only placed where they were originally meant to be, city council members said Monday.
When the benches originally came in a few weeks ago, city employees placed them near store fronts looking toward the street. Last week most of them were moved to the other side of the uptown sidewalks looking toward the store fronts.
Council members Tracy Aranyos and Ann Morris, who have been overseeing the project, said the 14 metal benches in the 100 blocks of the uptown area were originally placed before they were notified the benches had arrived and that they were moved last week.
“We’re just trying to kind of mimic some of the historic sites like Waynesville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, where benches face the stores so people can watch other people come in and out of the stores,” Morris said. “Right now we’re just trying to place them symmetrical.”
She said that while the benches are now where they were originally meant to be, that doesn’t mean they can’t be moved again.
Aranyos said there are plans to order more benches each year. She said the benches are part of a larger downtown revitalization project that also includes light posts and brick pavers in the uptown sidewalk areas.
Eventually, Morris said, all the brick areas in the sidewalks will have a bench.
The benches are designed to create a more inviting atmosphere and encourage shoppers and visitors to stop and relax.
Mayor Drew Hastings previously told The Times-Gazette that when the benches originally arrived that, before they were placed, the message the city was sending was, “Keep moving. Nothing to stop and see here.” Hastings said there was “literally nowhere for you to sit uptown.”
“What city have you ever seen that doesn’t have benches?” Hastings asked. “When two senior citizens run into each other who want to stop and talk, there was nowhere to sit and chat. I think it’s nice for people to be able to take a break and enjoy the town.”
The mayor said he disagrees with people who worry the benches will become a home to “derelicts.”
“That’s like saying let’s don’t do new sidewalks because they attract skateboarders,” said Hastings. “We just have to enforce the law.”
Hastings said the large metal benches cost $700 each and were paid for from the General Fund. They are nearly 7 feet wide and about 3 feet tall, with a seating area more than 2 feet deep. They were made locally by CFW Fabricating near Leesburg.
The mayor said he would like to see more benches placed near the county courthouse, which basically serves as the city’s town square. He said a few might be utilized in the space left by the demolition of the front of the Colony Theatre once the patch of land is rehabbed.
The mayor said the benches add to an ongoing effort to make the uptown area more attractive.
“They can be moved again, but right now this is what we’re going to try,” Morris said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.