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3-D tour caters to virtual visitors
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JEFFERSON — With help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street Jefferson is working to develop a powerful economic tool.

The city was recently selected to participate in the trust’s Main Streets in 3-D project. Jefferson was named as one of only five participants nationwide. The other communities were located in West Virginia, Florida, Oregon and Delaware.

"We will be using the 3-D model to inventory downtown buildings," said Beth Laughinghouse, Main Street Jefferson director. "But our long range goal is to be able to inventory the entire county."

Using multi-angle photographs of the area and computer programs by Google and Igloos Studios, the city will be able to create a "virtual tour" of downtown. Viewers would be able to "walk" through downtown Jefferson, without ever leaving their seats at home.

"We’ve pulled a whole group of folks together to work on this — everyone has volunteered their time to help with some aspect of the project," Laughinghouse said.

"We even have a photographer that has volunteered to take all of the pictures."

The 3-D model will help the city attract businesses, by showing prospective business owners how their facility would look downtown.

"We could show things like where they could put parking and how to situate the building, all before (construction begins)," Laughinghouse said.

As a city with a strong, historic preservation community, the technology will also allow city officials to try different building improvements, before any money is spent.

"It’s difficult to imagine things like color. This is a way to show how a new facade or awning would look, before it’s purchased," Laughinghouse said.

"One town, after they completed a model of how things look now, went a step further and created a model to show how things looked 50 years ago. How cool is that? A 3-D model gives so much more perspective than a picture ever could."

While the software that the city will receive is valued at around $5,000, Laughinghouse says that ultimately the opportunity is invaluable.

"How do you put a value on being able to potentially draw a (new industry and jobs) to the area," she asked.

In addition to virtual tours of Jackson County for economic development purposes, city officials also plan on using the modeling programs as a tourism booster.

"I see us using this to create a virtual tour of the (Crawford W. Long Museum), so visitors could get a taste of it before they actually come," Laughinghouse said.

"We wouldn’t give away everything — just a taste of what’s in store. The possibilities of this program are really endless."