FYI: Posting Mr. Pitman’s Post From Social Media
I’m glad members of the CCRP are deciding to speak out instead of taking the blame. If you take a look at the Ratio plan, which as a member of the CCRP I participated in. You will see on the front page that it was a joint effort between the City Council and the CCRP. In August of 2016 the City Council approved the request of the City Manager at the time to hire Ratio to create a Downtown plan. In November of 2017 the Council makes a motion to adopt the plan. In February of 2018 it was set for a vote that never happened due to concerns of gentrification. We touched on gentrification while crafting the plan. The Council participated heavily. Once we added changes to the plan, it then went to the Council to look over and approve those changes. We added neighborhoods they were concerned about. We expanded areas to combat gentrification they were concerned about. We held community meetings to gather input. In the end the final draft was set. Since the plan was not approved, we lost our Main Street Accreditation. Simple. We won accreditation initially because they could see we had a plan in place. To say Accreditation and Affiliation is the same thing is just plain ignorant. We wore that accreditation like a badge of honor based on the hard work we all put in. Since the plan was never approved by the Council. This has lead to the creation of a small group of individuals, friends of the Council, who have set out as rogue agents to create their own plan. The CCRP has been powerless and kept out of the loop because of a lack of meetings due to the COVID19 pandemic. They pounced on this opportunity. So to blame the CCRP for the lack of an overall plan for downtown amounts to a LIE so certain individuals on the Council can advance their own personal agendas, which includes lining their pockets, without input from the CCRP. It’s all about the money baby!#LetsGrowTogether
A real estate investor told the Telegram he believes the issue regarding the revitalization of the heart of the city is not whether Rocky Mount’s Main Street program is accredited but rather the absence of a plan.
“And there has been a lack of a plan and a lack of a vision for downtown Rocky Mount for the two years that I’ve been an investor and been spending time in Rocky Mount,” Jesse Gerstl said on Friday. “I encourage the city to pass any vision or plan and set out a road map for how we can achieve that plan so that we can all work toward that goal.”
Specifically, Gerstl said he believes the lack of a definitive vision and plan, and codes and guidelines to support that vision and plan, is a hindrance to developers to know what they should be working toward.
Gerstl was commenting in the context of the state Commerce Department on July 2 saying 48 municipalities in North Carolina for 2020 have accredited Main Street programs — that is, those in the highest tier.
Rocky Mount’s Main Street program lost accreditation status after 2017 and remains an affiliate. What has been preventing Rocky Mount’s Main Street program from regaining accreditation has been the lack of a work plan, which provides details for a Main Street program’s activities.
Main Street programs seek to help transform older and historic commercial districts into vibrant areas with thriving economies.
During the City Council’s July 13 work session, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said she believes there is no fundamental proof of there being a difference between an accredited Main Street revitalization program and an affiliate.
However, Small-Toney said she favored restarting the process of a preparing a master plan for revitalizing downtown Rocky Mount.
There is an extensive draft document, completed in 2017 and known locally as the Ratio plan, which provides a long list of recommendations and ways to improve Rocky Mount’s once-proud central business district. The Ratio plan apparently never was approved by the municipal government.
Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday that regardless of whether people liked or disliked the Ratio plan, the draft document at least set out the pathway toward a vision “and something we could work toward.”
Gerstl said he believes having an accredited Main Street program would be great.
“But if the city doesn’t feel that that’s important, that’s fine,” Gerstl said. “But a plan is important.”
During the July 13 council work session, Councilman Andre Knight asked City Business Development Manager Kevin Harris who determines the work plan for Rocky Mount’s Main Street program.
Harris said the Central City Revitalization Panel.
The CCRP administers a program utilizing financial incentives to encourage improvements and preservation within the central city part of Rocky Mount.
Gertsl, who is a member of the CCRP, told the Telegram the CCRP is a volunteer citizen group that needs to be guided and managed by municipal staff.
Gerstl also said the municipality has a community and business development department whose job includes working with and getting input from the CCRP to help develop a master plan or any plan for the continued growth of downtown Rocky Mount.
Gerstl also pointed out the CCRP has not met in months. Small-Toney, in March amid the spread of the coronavirus, announced the postponement of the meetings of boards and commissions.
Gerstl, prior to the effect of COVID-19, advocated having teleconferencing so CCRP members could participate remotely in meetings and ensure there were enough members to be able to vote on items of business.
Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday that “everyone everywhere is having meetings virtually.”
Gerstl said, “I truly don’t understand why we continue to just choose not to do our work.”
In the meantime, Gerstl and his team of partners are continuing to seek a purchaser for the former Carleton House, which is in the 200 block of North Church Street and once was a motor lodge and restaurant.
The Telegram on Sept. 29 reported Gerstl and his team planned to renovate the site before deciding not to proceed with the project because he and his team have many other projects going on downtown.
Gerstl for that story also said that the former Carleton House was quite a large project and added that he believed the timing was not right.
Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday, “We’ve had a little bit of interest, but nothing concrete yet. We’re hoping to sell it as soon as possible.
“Obviously it’s not the greatest time to be selling a hotel due to the coronavirus and the current economic situation, but we’re hopeful that it will sell soon,” Gerstl said.
The list sale price for the property is $1.55 million. The property is listed online with the Mumford Co., which specializes in advising hotels, and with the Chambliss & Rabil real estate company.
Interestingly, the Ratio plan called for the former Carleton House site, once redeveloped, to be part of what would have been an event and entertainment district downtown.