‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us – Part 1

It has been said that Rocky Mount has the best collection of historically significant architecture in the entire state. We’ll take that compliment. We have beautiful examples of what successful preservation looks like thanks to Peter Varney whose watch included the Train & Bus Station, The Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and StreetScape. You have to ask yourself how that momentum got sidelined and why? As in a relay race, Peter Varney handed the baton to the next runner, but it has been dropped along the way. We have to go back and pick up that baton and get back in the race Peter began. Rocky Mount deserves that! It is past time that all citizens rally around the heartbeat of the city.

Maybe you never go downtown but that doesn’t change the fact that Main Street is like our living room and deserves protection. What happened to our concerted effort to save our Main Street architecture and what we think of as our downtown city core? It seems no one is actually responsible for seeing that these efforts are ongoing?  I know we have codes that are not being enforced. I know we have buildings leaking into others and nothing is done. I know there are broken windows, boarded up facades, exterior proof of the deterioration that is on-going.

At this point, I no longer accept the premise that it’s the absentee landowners that have been holding us hostage. No, it is the lack of will to do something about that. I feel like everyone is saying, “This is not my job.” I am proud to sit on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount but since I’ve been involved we still haven’t found time to discuss what this organization might do to bring attention to the present preservation crisis of these buildings. I visit the Historic Preservation Commission who are responsible for maintaining our historic district guidelines, and as important and imperative as that is, their influence in this matter is vital too. The downtown neighborhood belongs to all of us!

I believe that Main Street Rocky Mount can be the most beautifully, restored and preserved, downtown in the State. If you, in any of your spheres of influence, can help in this matter, you’re badly needed whether you are a disgruntled citizen over the matter or a CEO that can exert economic pressure.   We must stop electing and hiring people who will not help save Main Street and surrounds. We need tangible proof that the Mayor, City Manager right on down the leadership roll can not only bring into existence our new Event Center, which was to help promote downtown but start immediately to tackle the problems on ‘Main Street.’

Because we have lost a great cheerleader for Main Street, John Jesso, we are now in further peril of losing our masterpieces. It was he who courted and inspired investment and development downtown. Why would the rug be pulled out from under the economic momentum of new investors buying our commercial buildings? John helped investors believe in the revitalization of our downtown city core. If the city won’t spearhead the preservation of our architecture, we only have these new investors to rely on.  Now the successful growing economic development downtown seems to have been derailed. WHY? Who is profiting from stifling growing success that can lift up our low-income population and change our economically depressed statistics?

These buildings can’t afford further neglect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leadership turned into heroes and took charge of saving Main Street?  There isn’t a chance of that as things stand. It is up to us to build a consensus that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the lack of leadership in this matter. It is our ‘Main Street’ and we want it back.

(We could have commercial buildings that look like this)


Join me for Part 2 with a fascinating look at saving facades

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about this. Thanks.