WCU buys “Downtown Cullowhee” businesses

The strip of businesses known as “Downtown Cullowhee,” located in the heart of the campus of Western Carolina University, has become a favorite location of the WCU community. The locations in Downtown Cullowhee are currently Subway, Cat Chow, The Mad Batter, Bob’s Mini Mart, the Catamount Hair Station, Simply Ts and the State Employee’s Credit Union automatic teller machine. WCU has now purchased these businesses so that they are officially owned by the campus. “The university recently bought these locations from EFMB Properties, Inc.,” said an article provided by Bill Studenc, senior director of news services at WCU. However, the article states, “This change in ownership does not mean a change in facilities in Downtown Cullowhee.” Although the university now owns this property, the businesses there will remain open to WCU people. Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance at WCU, elaborated on this issue in the article. “It is our desire to see commercial shops remain the area.” As a result, the WCU campus will continue to provide a mix of school-run facilities and commercial facilities. Downtown Cullowhee is also the home of several apartments. These apartments, which are located above the businesses that are at street level, “will be occupied by the current tenants during the spring semester, but in all likelihood they will not be occupied beyond the end of the semester,” said Wooten in the article. Although these apartments are familiar in Downtown Cullowhee, the change to the area is to also bring changes to its housing. According to the article, Western Carolina University has several short-term goals for Downtown Cullowhee. One is to improve the appearance of Downtown Cullowhee using various methods. Another goal is to improve parking for customers who use these facilities on the campus of WCU. By working to achieve these goals, the campus is attempting to make changes to ease the use of Downtown Cullowhee for students, faculty, staff and visitors. However, the university’s goals do not stop after these items are complete. “Our long-term goal is to redevelop the area from the Wachovia Bank building to Central Park,” said Wooten in the article. The new ownership of Downtown Cullowhee is a significant change, but the area may be in for others in the future, as well. Despite the change in ownership of the businesses in Downtown Cullowhee, they will remain separate from the university financially. “The commercial businesses currently will not be able to accept Cat Cards as payment,” said Bill Studenc. “Some of the merchants have expressed an interest in this issue, however, and discussions are underway to explore what might be possible in the future,” Studenc continued. The integration of Downtown Cullowhee into the school financial system is not currently on the university’s agenda, but campus is considering this option in the coming days. The changes being made to Downtown Cullowhee, from an ownership standpoint, are an attempt to make the area an official part of Western Carolina University, rather than simply a strip of businesses conveniently located in the middle of campus. Fans of the current facilities should not despair, though, because the establishments are expected to remain there for the time being. Downtown Cullowhee is evolving along with Western Carolina University as a whole, and it will be interesting to see how both look in the years to come.