‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us – Part 1

It has been said that Rocky Mount has the best collection of historically significant architecture in the entire state. We’ll take that compliment. We have beautiful examples of what successful preservation looks like thanks to Peter Varney whose watch included the Train & Bus Station, The Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and StreetScape. You have to ask yourself how that momentum got sidelined and why? As in a relay race, Peter Varney handed the baton to the next runner, but it has been dropped along the way. We have to go back and pick up that baton and get back in the race Peter began. Rocky Mount deserves that! It is past time that all citizens rally around the heartbeat of the city.

Maybe you never go downtown but that doesn’t change the fact that Main Street is like our living room and deserves protection. What happened to our concerted effort to save our Main Street architecture and what we think of as our downtown city core? It seems no one is actually responsible for seeing that these efforts are ongoing?  I know we have codes that are not being enforced. I know we have buildings leaking into others and nothing is done. I know there are broken windows, boarded up facades, exterior proof of the deterioration that is on-going.

At this point, I no longer accept the premise that it’s the absentee landowners that have been holding us hostage. No, it is the lack of will to do something about that. I feel like everyone is saying, “This is not my job.” I am proud to sit on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount but since I’ve been involved we still haven’t found time to discuss what this organization might do to bring attention to the present preservation crisis of these buildings. I visit the Historic Preservation Commission who are responsible for maintaining our historic district guidelines, and as important and imperative as that is, their influence in this matter is vital too. The downtown neighborhood belongs to all of us!

I believe that Main Street Rocky Mount can be the most beautifully, restored and preserved, downtown in the State. If you, in any of your spheres of influence, can help in this matter, you’re badly needed whether you are a disgruntled citizen over the matter or a CEO that can exert economic pressure.   We must stop electing and hiring people who will not help save Main Street and surrounds. We need tangible proof that the Mayor, City Manager right on down the leadership roll can not only bring into existence our new Event Center, which was to help promote downtown but start immediately to tackle the problems on ‘Main Street.’

Because we have lost a great cheerleader for Main Street, John Jesso, we are now in further peril of losing our masterpieces. It was he who courted and inspired investment and development downtown. Why would the rug be pulled out from under the economic momentum of new investors buying our commercial buildings? John helped new investors believe in the revitalization of our downtown city core. With the city not restoring and preserving this architecture, we only have these new investors to rely on.  Now the successful growing economic development downtown has been derailed? WHY? Who is profiting from stifling the growing success that can lift up our low-income population and change our economically depressed statistics?

These buildings can’t afford further neglect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leadership turned into heroes and took charge of saving Main Street?  There isn’t a chance of that as things stand. It is up to us to build a consensus that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the lack of leadership in this matter. It is our ‘Main Street’ and we want it back.

(We could have commercial buildings that look like this)

 

Join me for Part 2 with a fascinating look at saving facades

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about this. Thanks.

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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8 Responses to ‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us – Part 1

  1. William Hogg says:

    Hi Stephanie – a well written essay. Valerie and I moved from Rocky Mount over three years ago. Lost more money on my house there than was made on my previous five homes.. For sure, I don’t miss the petty politics that went on.
    If someone wanted to see how a downtown area can be revitalized and actually become a true destination, come visit where I now live, Fairhope, AL. My family is from another town that cared and developed their downtown, LaGrange, GA. Downtowns’ can and should be saved. It takes more will and commitment than apparently exists in Rocky Mount.

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  2. Craig Rich says:

    I first became familiar with RMT in 1964 when I attended NC WESLEYAN COLLEGE. I was truly impressed with the beauty of the city but more importantly with the spirit and friendliness of it’s people. After making RMT my home for a few years after college I became a real fan of the city. After you leave a place and revisit it becomes Mecca for you and remembering the way things used to be becomes a tonic.
    Please refrain from tearing out the heart of this symbolic icon of American transportation. Downtown RMT is and was a beautiful place. Citizens don’t let imported City Managers and “forward” thinking council members destroy your beauty and my memories. It has almost happened in my current adopted home in SC but the citizens revolted and are preserving the city that was theirs.

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  3. Rodd says:

    I agree Stepheny. The city is ill with graft and corruption. I believe all the City Council should resign; their leadership is ineffective and they have turned away from the problems rather than face them head on. The city manager and her direct reports have failed also. It is time for the City Manager and all of the department heads to be fired. In the corporate world their incompetence would not be tolerated. As tax payers we SHOULD be angry and demand a new City Council, Mayor and employees. I sense a storm is brewing and they are on their way out as many more people begin to voice their outrage. The city is in a shambles–filled with abandoned and decaying buildings, high crime and drugs. The poverty and corruption have taken their toll. We all know who is responsible for it so let’s act. This is a call for your readers to attend meetings, call state officials and demand an investigation into the mismanagement of our city, its tax dollars, federal grands and state funding.

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  4. John says:

    I can’t even begin to understand how a town in vests 40 million dollars in an event center yet allows the very building in the heart of its historic downtown to look like the aftermath of the Detroit or Los Angels riots. I whole heartedly believe the members of the city council and city Manager want the event center to fail so they can blame their continue incompetency on RACE to further line there pockets with tax payers hard earned dollars.

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  5. Terri Fieldman says:

    I may no longer be a resident of RMT but I continue to root for her to stand tall and proud once more. My pride has never been in it’s tangible assets but in the people. Where did pride in this beautiful city go? Thank you Stepheny for being a voice for change.

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  6. James Tharin says:

    In my opinion you can blame the loss of John Jesso on our City Manager.

    James Tharin, CFA Emerald Asset Management 252.443.7616 http://www.emeraldam.com ________________________________

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    • CC Rider says:

      Nope. You can blame it on Landis Faulcon. The “con” in her name should tell you enough. She’s the city’s new “Economic & Community Development Director” and was Jesso’s boss. She’s also threatening to take away funding for Alan Matthews at the Chamber … who brings in Retail development. She’s a threat to all that is good … and one of the people putting Section 8 Housing in DT RM instead of putting new money or preventing Main St from further harm & decline.

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