State Street: Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia

Planning Excellence

State Street is a five-block downtown commercial historic district and the main street shared by two rural cities in two different states. State Street revitalization was initially inspired by a citizen-led, two-year Virginia-Tennessee collaborative planning process in the late 1990s, resulting in the plan Ignite: Create Bristol’s Future and the rebirth of this historic state line street.

The state line separating Virginia and Tennessee corresponds with the center line of State Street. Half of downtown is in Tennessee and half is in Virginia. Photo courtesy Randall Rose.

Investing in the arts has been a significant part of Bristol’s revitalization process. Believe in Bristol, a community-driven downtown nonprofit, was formed in 2005 and is jointly supported by both city governments to help promote arts and entertainment downtown. It organized property owners on both sides of the state line to create an improved environment for economic development, residential living, and community gathering.

An Arts and Entertainment overlay district was adopted in 2010, and in 2011 a streetscape improvement project added decorative lamp posts, improved sidewalks, and stylized street signage. State Street continues to play an influential role in shaping the arts in the region.

Bristol has successfully capitalized on its music heritage as the Birthplace of Country Music, which included the opening of the Smithsonian-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum in 2014. State Street has live music nightly and street performers passing through town, making Bristol a true music lovers’ destination.

A large crowd gathers at the State Street Stage during the annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival to hear music by the Spirit Family Reunion group. Photo courtesy The Birthplace of Country Music, Inc.

Both cities worked together to build a new downtown library in 2005 just a short block from State Street. In 2008, the restoration of the 1902 Train Station located at the eastern end of State Street was completed at a cost of over $5 million and now serves as a center for community events and meetings. The redevelopment projects continue today as two new boutique hotels are under construction — one on State Street and the other just a block away.

The future of State Street looks bright, as the community offers activities for all residents including free events and community spaces and has become the focal point for Bristol’s cultural and historic preservation.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • Comfortable and safe environment with walkable streets, short blocks, and buildings that open onto the sidewalk.
  • State Street anchors the community and offers activities for all residents including free events and community spaces.

By the Numbers

  • State Street contains 160 businesses.
  • The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion festival draws almost 50,000 persons annually. Mumford and Sons Gentleman of the Road Tour attracted over 17,000 visitors in 2012.
  • The district now features over 60 loft apartments.
  • Bristol, Tennessee, held three community workshops for its comprehensive plan.

Designated Area

From Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Commonwealth Avenue and Volunteer Parkway.

Looking east on State Street with the Paramount Theatre on right and Bristol sign in the background. Photo courtesy Bristol VA/TN Chamber of Commerce.

Learn More

Believe in Bristol

Bristol Train Station

Bristol Public Library

Bristol City Council Planning Retreat 2014

Bristol 2017 Comprehensive Plan – State Street Plan

Bristol Comprehensive Plan