Six experts from the Hill Studio, which is drawing up plans for the Callao Revitalization Project, joined locals in Callao for two days last week in order to get a close look at the town and to start developing plans for its physical and economic improvement. After looking at the town, talking to business owners and having a meeting with the project’s management team, the experts gave their initial impressions of Callao and what it might need to a crowd of more than 40 local people at a public hearing in the Callao Volunteer Fire Department’s firehouse Thursday night.
The goal if Hill’s team is to develop a solid enough plan that the town can win a development grant that could be worth up to $750,000. David Hill said he expects to put the final plans in the hands of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission, which is helping with the project, by February.
After that, the PDC will complete and submit the grant request.
Hill said he loved some of the town’s buildings and had several initial suggestions. For example, he suggests that shade trees should be planted along Route 360 as it approaches Callao from the west. The trees would signal to people that they are entering a community not just a wide spot in the highway. As to wide spots, Hill noted that the main road through Callao, Route 360, is wide enough that cars pass each other in the middle of town. He said the lanes could be reduced in size to create parking and sidewalk areas along the route.
Architect Don Hightower had whipped up drawings that demonstrated how some of the town’s businesses could improve their facades to not only improve the town’s appearance but to attract business as well. His drawing of Nino’s Pizza and the Buy Rite store both of which are set well back from the road, demonstrated how a facade would grab passers-by’s attention unlike the current plain sign on the highway that is easily missed.
Hill also noted that the old antique store on the edge of town actually could be converted into an attractive pavilion leading to an amphitheater on land behind it. The Olverson’s lot acrossfrom Newell’s Auto Repair would be a good place for a park,he said.
Aaron Arnett went over the economics of Callao. He said the team had analyzed Callao’s market as being in a radius around the town within a 30 minute drive. There is good opportunity for specialty businesses, he said. Jewelry, clothing and specialty food stores might do well, he noted. He also said the town “presents a big opportunity for a restaurant.”
Hill Studios will create a plan for branding Callao as the place to visit in the Northern Neck, they said. “The Callao Community needs to be the centerof the message,”Arnett noted.
The next step in the revitalization project will be public hearings in January or February on the draft plan Hill Studio creates.