2023: To Whom It May Concern From Stepheny – Rocky Mount, NC

Over the holiday this Main Street blog, metaphorically, had its tires aligned and air-filled. Therefore, I have stepped over the threshold into this new year, 2023, with a resolution to keep calling everyone to come downtown.

I’m sure this question is universal. How do I want to spend the years I have left? For sure in gratitude and with awareness of my blessings, generous with my love. I want to keep growing and changing. I want to be reading a book on my last day. Through this blog and my podcast, I want to encourage people to look at the painting on the wall with new eyes. I don’t want to be rude or cranky, but I am not afraid to call attention to the issues at hand.

I’ve thought about the purpose of continuing to write the blog and restart the Podcast, Talking Main Street with Stepheny. My conclusion is: I want to continue being a cheerleader for the Preservation, Restoration and Repurposing of residential and commercial architecture. I intend to stay focused on Rocky Mount’s bungalow and shot gun homes and the Main Street area. I love writing about the people hard at work revitalizing the City.

I can hardly be called an expert on these things, but I continue to research, read and listen. I have the best mentors who have taken me under their wings. All the stories I’ve been told allow me to see beyond the silence of buildings and neighborhoods. I do have eyes to see the past glories and what they can be again.

I celebrate the improvements that are happening downtown. Great food, wonderful new businesses, and best of all the people I’ve met who believe in Rocky Mount and despite obstacles, are opening new doors.

As the New Year begins we have much to celebrate and appreciate. The repurposing of a building on Main Street for The Downtown Development team is a fine example of what is going on. This new space is a marketing tool to showcase what can be done with the commercial architecture we have. It is around Downtown Development and it’s associated issues that I will write more. Click on link for blog post about the opening of the office. https://mainstreetrockymount.com/2022/12/02/opening-of-downtown-development-office-rocky-mount-nc-sets-a-high-bar-for-renovation-and-repurposing-on-main-street/

My plan for this year’s blog will stay focused on Rocky Mount’s Main Street area and saving commercial buildings and residential housing. I am over-joyed that Ward 4, Councilman, T.J. Walker, asked THE QUESTION for 2023. The subject and answers are on my radar. I hope you will take time to read Bill West’s Telegram article about THE QUESTION. Click on: .https://www.rockymounttelegram.com

In response to T.J.’s question, Kevin Harris told the City Council that he and his team are working on an annual comprehensive work plan at this point, but he made clear that the plan is more a requirement via the state Main Street & Rural Planning Center, which is part of the state Commerce Department.

Harris said that the purpose of putting together the plan is so the municipality can reobtain accreditation status for Rocky Mount’s Main Street program.

“But in terms of a comprehensive downtown work plan we—we really haven’t started one,” Harris said. “We have an annual work plan, but we haven’t started a, say, a five-year comprehensive plan.”

We lost our accreditation with the Main Street program after 2017. Mr. Harris became the Downtown Manager in May 2018 and in this amount of time we’re still asking, “Where is the plan?” The Main Street Program is our hope and safeguard that require records, results, accountability. It is not entirely Mr. Harris’s doing, but he will always follow the wishes of the “My Will Be Done’ agenda that wants no part of a Main Street Program. The immediate concern is that we have no template to access the success or lack of it in a year’s time. We’ll be told how well things are going.

The Telegram has reported that a key reason for Rocky Mount’s Main Street program needing to become accredited is the need for a comprehensive work plan. That plan is important because the contents provide an outline for the vision for a local Main Street program, along with action areas intended to be achieved each year.

We must regain our Main Street Program Accreditation. You have to ask if this is possible when those responsible for losing the accreditation in the first place don’t want the scrutiny? The work is a tremendous challenge, but regaining and maintaining this accreditation will guarantee that Downtown Development is doing more than showing up at events smiling. Or worse, implying credit for things the new entrepreneurs, investors, and other leadership has brokered. (Picture below is New Bern where I attended the Main Street Conference. New Bern has its accreditation. The Preservation, Restoration and Repurposing going on makes one envious.)

I know this is harsh but Mr Harris has been at his job 4+ years. Councilman Walker had to ask, “Where is the plan for Downtown Development?” We won’t speak of the costly plan stuffed in a drawer, ignored. This plan was created when the Downtown Development Director was John Jesso.

Go to New Bern, Elizabeth City, Tarboro, Goldsboro and see what Main Street accreditation has done for these communities. In the Telegram article, Councilman Knight implies the Main Street Program is not necessary, everything is great. Mr. Knight is another matter, up for reelection in November, which we will consider in future blogs. In 2023 we have got to approach things differently, be unafraid and smart. We must say that enough is enough to those few who have cost us dearly in many ways. 2023 is the year to do it.

2 thoughts on “2023: To Whom It May Concern From Stepheny – Rocky Mount, NC

  1. You can’t solve a problem that’s not acknowledged. The city council will never discuss development unless it’s for the underprivileged. We have seen many developments come and go that would revive the downtown but if it’s not minority owned they won’t look at it. Rocky Mount will always be the city that wouldn’t. You always need a town where other thriving towns can dump their undesirables.

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  2. So, what do Harris and Knight see as their responsibility to Rocky Mount? or are they just occupying a position and collecting a salary?

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