Believe me, this is an important step when talking about saving Main Street. Programs across the country, regardless of what they are called, that have focused on the restoration and renovation of the facades of their commercial Main Street buildings, have been successful in attracting business and downtown life. After spending some time talking with our new Director of Developmental Services, William Deaton, I can tell you that we have a qualified, enthusiastic, smart, experienced batter in the batter box who is already swinging. In case you need proof of the need to address broken glass, boarded fronts, peeling paint and critical safety problems, here are but a few photographs I have to illustrate the need for this facade program
The range of work generally included in these facade programs relates to masonry repairs and pointing; façade painting, repair, reconstruction or replacement of historic features; awnings or canopies; signage and exterior lighting; gutters and downspouts; handicap accessibility; and window and door repair or replacement. Even simple changes such as the removal of non-historic materials, repairs, or a new paint job that calls attention to the building’s original architectural details signal positive change.
The sum of $5.000 has been mentioned per structure and must be spent on exterior improvements. Grant Eligible Improvements include painting, pointing, brick, masonry, wood, metal, and stucco repair, business signs and graphics, exterior and decorative lighting, windows, and architectural design. Obviously, the money provided will have to be thoughtfully allocated to get the most bang for the buck. I believe the city should have a list of “must firsts” that start with safety improvements that include fixing broken glass. A panel of experts should be made available for consultation on materials, historic district guidelines, and a few preservation & restoration coaches. This panel can include credentialed volunteer help. We will need the community to support the facade program every day by coming to see what is going on, bringing coffee and donuts to a workman, cheering the process on that is needed badly. Are you someone who could serve on a temporary panel because you have some expertise that will be needed?
The storefront is certainly a prominent feature of a downtown commercial building, but the rest of the building is related to it visually through the unity of form and detail. Storefront façade improvements should consider the entire building – window patterns on the upper floors, cornice elements, and other decorative features should be carefully considered, in addition to the storefront itself.
When I think of Greenville, SC and their remarkable reimagining of themselves, I look at these photographs below that I took several years ago. I believe that Main Street Rocky Mount will be saved too with programs that William Denton and his team have been tasked to lead. Clap your hands and believe along with me. Come to a City Council meeting and take 3 minutes to tell them this is a great place to start and what Main Street needs.