“Architecture is the thoughtful making of space.”
― Louis Khan
At the Main Street Conference in New Bern, I signed up for one of the tours in order to see 3 properties, one in it’s gutted stage, and two ‘living above the store’ homes. Bill Hand wrote an article a while back about New Bern called Downtown Renaissance Took Years, Hard Work. It gives us a quick perspective applicable to Rocky Mount’s revitalization. I’ll let the comparisons speak for themselves.
Once upon a time, New Bern was a sleepy, dying river town whose waterfront was more eyesore than scenic. In 1979 Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation came into being and its years-long renaissance program turned the town into the tourism center it is today. A badly-run government, nepotism and a declining job market left “hundreds of people… leaving to find jobs in other places.” The city’s historic homes were also in decline with most deteriorated and some turned into apartments or low-income housing. Many of the city’s most beautiful homes were demolished. Meanwhile, the tax base continued to erode.
By the 1960s New Bern was in an absolute crisis state and the waterfront ceased to exist. Moffat-Thomas, a mover in New Bern’s turn around said, “When I moved here people told me it was so bad that people were afraid to come downtown. The area had been abandoned and a lot of vermin were there. It was a sad place.”
Then, in the 70s, “a group of focused, bright professional people took the reins in their hands. They understood that they needed to unite and develop a plan and a consensus for moving the city forward. A 1977 central business district revitalization plan called for that development, and also called for the city to turn toward tourism and attracting retirees to the area, whose disposable income would be key to the economy. “Everybody got excited. Everybody was working hard,”
Rocky Mount has a new story to tell that is larger than the years of neglect and shenanigans we can’t deny have taken place. The emerging Main Street scene has a group of focused, bright people that have taken the reins into their hands as well. There are a lot of people excited and hard at work. The photographs I took in this second story building are to show you that living above the store isn’t about what I call “tried to and couldn’t.” Granted this home belongs in a magazine because of it’s beautiful furnishings and art but the design of the space came first. On Main Street, there has been a lot of time and talent beneath the wings of the projects taking place that include living above the store.
This post is dedicated to David Joyner, a Rocky Mount treasure, whose session I attended at the conference Telling the Main Street Story. For me, he was the highlight of the two days with his presentation, good humor, vast knowledge, and experience. I hope he recognizes a thing or two I learned from him in this post. Thank You! Thank You!