Our Future With The Main Street Program Is In The Hands Of The ‘My Will Be Done’ Councilmen

When I read the erroneous remarks from the City Council meeting that keep declaring there is no difference between Main Street Accreditation and Affiliate, I repeat, there is a difference, dagnabbit!  An Affiliate status has resources that help new communities get started with this successful program, BUT, Accreditation comes along later when you submit the yearly paperwork proving that you are following and achieving the Programs guidelines. If that is accomplished and you are given accreditation status, you become eligible for grants that affiliation cannot participate in.  No accreditation, no money. If you missed my recent blog about this subject, CLICK HERE

In March I attended the NC Main Street Program in New Bern, NC. Kevin Harris was the only one from our City Government. I met the whole planning and development staff of other counties.  City Managers attended.  CLICK HERE for the post I wrote -We’re On The Road to New Bern.

This isn’t the TV show, Kids Say The Darndest Things. It is the reality show on City Council where those who are committed to the MY WILL BE DONE agenda make no room for this valuable and proven program to assist cities in reinvigorating historic downtown. To insist that there is no difference between an affiliate designation and an accredited status hopes you aren’t that interested in the first place or likely to give much thought to what losing our accreditation may have cost us. It isn’t that the MY WILL BE DONE agenda doesn’t know better, they don’t want you to know better. Here is what you hear.

“But it seems to me there’s really not a big difference between being accredited and affiliate”, Knight said. “And plus all the work that we are currently doing downtown and what we are proposing to do downtown, I think would be more than an A-plus once these projects come into fruition.” The City Manager said, “I agree with you., the paper seemed to have been hung up on accreditation versus affiliation when, in fact, there’s really no difference at all.”  This is wrong.

Here is the point of accreditation and what it means to have lost ours.

“Accredited communities are eligible for occasional funding opportunities through the National Main Street Center, that are only available to accredited communities, such as the National Park Service Main Street Façade Improvement Grant program that Lenoir, Elkin, and Elizabeth City received – $46,000 each for façade improvements in downtown; the Grills Fund for COVID recovery initiatives, that New Bern received; and from time to time, other opportunities that may arise. Accredited communities are eligible for awards, like the Great American Main Street award. Goldsboro was a runner up for this award a few years ago and it is a national recognition. Goldsboro received another grant for around $35,000. Again – only accredited communities are eligible.”                                                                       —Elizabeth (Liz) H. Parham, Director, NC Main Street

To think that the City of Rocky Mount continues to be in the hands of but a few. What a power trip it must be to know that MY WILL BE DONE continues without a judgment day, allowing the MY WILL agenda to continue on. For this, we are facing immeasurable damage to our reputation, credit ratings; bullying, and deflection go on. If only our lost accreditation were a single problem before us. Alas, there is much more.

 

 

 

 

 

If Responsible City Leadership Welcomes Private Development – You’ve Got A Hit Song On Your Hands

Above The Store in New Bern, NC

Where responsible city leadership welcomes private development, the results have been fantastic. By working together for ‘a yes solution’ in their dealings with private investors, downtowns are saved and economic growth is stimulated.  Elizabeth City and New Bern are examples of this kind of success; revitalization at its finest. Here in Rocky Mount, it cannot be denied that the Wizards behind the curtain can still foot-drag, dilly-dallying, and make things difficult in an attempt to retain control over the downtown outcomes. A larger story has happened in spite of this.   Determined locals and an influx of creative, hard-working people will not be deterred. They are saving our commercial architecture one building at a time by repurposing them. Living Above The Store is under construction, a vital piece of the revitalization puzzle.

We’ve learned a great deal since the 1980 Urban Renewal period when terrible mistakes were made. Enough time has gone by to access what worked and didn’t. Tearing down paradise and putting up a parking lot was not the answer. A big piece of the answer is preserving a strong sense of place that is vital to the health and prosperity of a downtown. The Rocky Mount story creates a particular richness that is attracting new people while honoring the place others have always called home. 

“Research has proven that a successful revitalization must include a pedestrian-friendly, connected location with a lively environment that encourages visitors to linger and support the local economy.” Living Above The Store broadens the success of a downtown community. “A downtown with a critical mass encourages a connection to the local community because they don’t leave the area at the end of the day. They shop local, eat local and drink local—inherently helping spur the economy and foster the hip-factor of the district.”  Living downtown: a mix of people who can live nearer their jobs, are singles, married,  retired people who are sizing down and want to walk to nearby amenities. The emerging scene on Main Street Rocky Mount will include Living Above The Store. Way Cool, friends, Way Cool!

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
– Christopher Reeve  

In 2017, Scott Baldwin wrote an article called, Live-Work Units: Reasons to Include Them in Your Next Project. (Fisher, Ind.) I have quoted from his article in support of this post.   

The Emerging Scene On Main Street -Dedicated to David Joyner – A Speaker at the Main Street Conference

Living Room

“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.

Open Kitchen Plan
Another View of Open Kitchen Area

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.”

One of the bedrooms
The Master Bath

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,”

View out the MBR of the historic Episcopal Church
A wall large enough for this beautiful cabinet and glass collection

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.

Open Dining Room Space split with Living Room
Another view of the Living Room

 

Ceiling Fan on screened porch leading to deck
Outside Deck

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!

Window on the back staircase leading down and out
Final View in leaving this beautiful space

The Emerging Scene On Main Street -‘Living Above The Store’ – Coming Soon

One of the highlights of The Main Street Conference in New Bern was the opportunity to see two gorgeous ‘living above the store’ homes. Coming soon to Main Street, we will have the same opportunity. What I saw was amazing. In this case, both places are owned by retired couples that filled their second-floor homes with a lifetime of collecting art, beautiful furniture, and southern charm. New Bern is desperate for rental and sale places in order to live downtown. This emerging scene of ours will fill an important nitch for young professionals, management that is connected to the new jobs being created, for singles, couples, retired folks and those who want to live close to their work. These ‘living above the store’ opportunities illustrate how the revitalization of Rocky Mount is unfolding: an example of preservation, restoration, and repurposing done the right way. This availability to live downtown in our historic commercial buildings is vital to saving Main Street; the name I use to include the entire downtown district. I hope the New Bern photos get you excited about the work going on downtown. The Repairers of the Breach are hard at work.

The staircase to an amazing space.
The door on the left is to the store. On the right upstairs.
Living room space
The ceiling above living room space
Beautiful floors throughout
A lovely brick arch left intact
One of the bathrooms
Bookcases along a hallway
A dining space
View out a bedroom window unto the street below

Photographs of the second ‘above the store’ living later this week.

After keeping me company on Main Street, you get it that there is something at stake here that goes beyond the obstacles to grace Main Street can encounter. This quote says it better than I can.

“The current passion for reuse might be explained by sustainability or fashion but, most importantly, it affords a sense of history and texture, taking advantage of buildings already embedded in cities. They are buildings with atmosphere, history, and stories inscribed in their fabric. And sometimes sustainability isn’t just about the energy and materials saved but about the stories, craft and intelligence embodied in its walls.”                                        -Paul Miles – The Financial Times

 

We’re On The Road to New Bern, NC – The Main Street Conference – March 10-12

 We better be on the road by 7;00 AM, an obscene time for one who hates to go to bed and hates to get up. I want to attend a workshop that starts at 10:oo: #1)Tips for Successful Grant Writing. I know a little bit, but when it comes to my crusade for our Shotgun Houses and Bungalows, I’ve got to get smarter. This session is about grant writing for communities of all sizes and offers best practices and tips on how to write a successful grant application. Attendees will learn how to navigate through the mumbo-jumbo and focus on the most critical parts of the application. I’m determined to enter the grant world if it helps us save our residential architecture with money that is available to Historic Preservation projects. Unfortunately, you can only pick one session for each time slot.

I grew up with alleys in Evanston, IL. and, of course, Chicago’s use of alleys. I’m intrigued that alleys have become significant in the revitalization of communities. I’ve written on the blog about our alleys. I’m pleased to attend #2) Creative Alley Connections. This session will explore how Main Street programs around the state have incorporated paving materials, plantings, water, lighting, and art to build creative alley connections that are places that you want to walk through or even hang out in for a while. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

One of the Keynote talks is on Small-Scale Manufacturing & Main Street: The Secret Sauce  Too many places are stuck with a set of economic development strategies left from the 1980s. People and places are being left behind — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Join this conversation to learn about how we can flip the model on economic development and do it a better way. An approach that invests in people and places. An approach that focuses on actions today and not just long-term plans. This talk will discuss the secret sauce to build a strong and resilient economy through concrete steps that include entrepreneurship, why (and how) to focus on small-scale manufacturing businesses as a catalyst, and how new real estate models for Main Street can be essential to success. You have more assets at your fingertips than you think. Small- scale manufacturing businesses are hidden gems in your community. They are a key ingredient for your main street – one you can mix in immediately!

Several more of the workshops I’ve picked – #3) Creating Great Streets -The guiding principles of great streets create a sense of place that is unique to the community, and a place where you want to live, work and hang out. This session will explore tips that you can take home to ignite your streets and attract people to downtown.

IMAGINE MY PLEASURE OVER THIS NEXT WORKSHOP!!!!

#4) Make Downtown A Destination Through Storytelling  — Branding is perception and perception is reality. The strength of your Downtown’s image is a direct result of how effectively you tell your Main Street District’s story. In this session, marketing and branding expert, David Joyner, will share the why and how to effectively reinvent the perception of your Main Street District. The audience will learn best practices on how to orchestrate and execute effective marketing strategies and tactics to better tell the story of Main Street’s momentum in a way that resonates with your desired audience.

There are several New Bern Tours – I picked Upstairs Downtown —Take a peek at several innovative downtown residential spaces. Spaces include current construction that is transforming unused former offices into second-floor rental apartments as well as fully renovated apartments/condos that include some of the most beautiful residences in New Bern. Inspiration is just a staircase away.

We are on our own for lunches. I am skipping dinners that are extra money and don’t quite float my boat. I’ve googled and found a place for lunch or dinner at a restaurant called Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant on Pollock St. It’s on the water, hopefully, with a New Bern atmosphere, slightly romantic with a breeze and the murmurer of voices over their Sweet Tea. I’m going to use these breaks to wander around and over food, reflect on our Main Street,  and what I am learning at the Main Street Conference. I am taking all of you with me. Let’s hope we return home wiser, filled with information, determined anew.