Ben Bradock, Andrew Clark, Troy Davis, Jesse Gerstl, Zack Poll, Troy White … Saving Commercial Architecture In Historic Downtown Rocky Mount – Part 1

Like beads on a rosary, I pause on each bead to add a name connected to the preservation, restoration, and repurposing of Main Street. I name the place holders like Virginia’s and The Bicycle Shop, that welcome new business, and the entertainment sector: restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Part of this litany of names includes, Ed Riley, at The Smokehouse, the folks at Blanches Bistro, and at Trax Coffee. Javelin Guildford at the Secret Garden ll. Yalem Kiros at Nabs, a beautiful spirit in this new scene on Main Street. (She is pictured above.) Moe Deloach’s bead on the rosary is one of the large ones, not only for his restaurant, grill/bar but because he is a prism of light in Rocky Mount. (Click Here to explain what a prism of light is about)

Larema Coffe House has become a friend to everyone that passes through the door. Larema posted a wonderful tribute to Troy Davis on their Facebook page. “Our featured community partner of color this week is Troy Davis, Owner of The Davis Property Group! Local entrepreneur and Rocky Mount native, Troy is a visionary leader who is taking charge in the effort to breathe new life and beauty into many historic commercial properties and houses across our city. While many people talk about building a better community, Troy is literally doing it! A Larema friend and supporter since before our opening, we share Troy’s vision for a renewed vibrancy in historic downtown Rocky Mount – and believe in the many benefits this can have for the whole community. Of his many projects, Troy is particularly excited to soon open the Davis Lofts just around the corner from Larema on Main Street, a historic building preservation and renovation project which will bring more than 20 gorgeous new apartments and a restaurant downtown for all to enjoy. Also, Troy purchased the Carleton House last week, with plans to bring accommodations, a restaurant, conference spaces and a pool to the former 1960s-era motor lodge also located downtown. Troy, thank you for all you do to make Rocky Mount an even better place to live, work and play!”                                                                                                                             

LAREMA:  We’re open in Rocky Mount and Wilson! Weekend hours are as follows -RM: Friday and Saturday, 8am-4pm; Waffle Sunday 9am-4pm

Developer Troy Davis has been working to transform three side-by-side buildings in the 100 block of Southeast Main Street into the future Davis Lofts. When completed there will be 22 high-quality upstairs apartments, four ground-level storefronts for businesses, and a rooftop deck. City Council approved $300,000 in Housing Incentive Grant Program funds for his project. Davis’s overall purpose  is to attract young professionals. People living downtown ‘above the store’ is a proven concept in the Main Street Programs that surround Rocky Mount: Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, New Bern, Tarboro. The addresses of the three buildings are, 143, 147 and 149 Southeast Main. Some are leased already. The ramifications of this project will far exceed the grant money involved. Davis said, “The reason I chose to redevelop locations downtown is that the heart of Rocky Mount has great architecture and I want to be part of that.” An article in the Telegram by Bill West said that City records say the private investment in the project totals at least $1.75 million. Those records state that a condition of the funding via the city calls for three of the 22 units to be set aside for affordable housing. A condition that illustrates a lack of understanding of the ‘Living Above The Store’ concept in downtown revitalizations.  CLICK HERE: Further information about this project.

A project Ben Braddock is leading is the transformation of the former Music City & Lights — at 131 and 135 Southeast Main. Soon to be a combination of upstairs residential and ground-level commercial development. The former Music City & Lights location highlights the work of Andrew Clark and Nicole Kleinstreuer from the Raleigh-Durham area.   Watch for Part 2 – Follow this Blog so you don’t miss it.

Jay at The Secret Garden creating beautiful floral arrangements and wreaths like this one. A Magical Place on Tarboro St.

Mercy, Mercy Me – What’s Going On?

Since Usher is my favorite, we have his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s song, Mercy, Mercy Me.  I know the song is about the environment, but he kept singing in my ear as I considered writing this post on the impact of crime in Rocky Mount. Click on the song link above, and you will agree that the song is a soulful reflection of what we are asking. What is going on?

I wrote about the Carlton House in the last post and talked about Knox White, the mayor of Greenville SC.  If the majority vote on Rocky Mount’s City Counsel would get their priorities straight, the city manager could honestly repeat this Knox White quote. “We implemented a strategy to attract developer interest. By ensuring that downtown was clean and safe with emerging entertainment and dining options, people began to see it as a place to live and not just visit.”

Troy Davis and others creating living spaces downtown, indeed, every business, should be all over the leadership about the crime problem that will impact their ability to sell the quality apartments they are creating.  It will affect other services available in the downtown area. 

My favorite expression when considering the ‘My will Be Done’ agenda is a certainty that it is always bass-ackward. A Hotel, a parking garage, and low-income housing on ECC’s parking lots are the definition of putting the cart before the horse. It is the preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the significant architectural inventory in the historic downtown area that is the prioritity; core assets that have been allowed to deteriorate. The commercial buildings have long needed emergency triage and immediate protection. Is it any wonder there is the outrage over selfish schemes that are served up as necessities and payback?

I think of the older lady I talked to in the middle of Pine St. She said, “Honey, nothin’ gonna change until you get the crime out of here.” That is her reality, and she encouraged me to get along home before dark. The hotel and parking garage takes priority over the people who live with neglect and false promises at election time. I include a video made in 2013, a powerful visual link that has surfaced. It could have been filmed today. The video has Usher’s cry all over it. Mercy, Mercy Me-What’s Goin’ on?

Unless personal gain is your priority, it is not difficult to see how important controlling crime in the neighborhoods and downtown is to a successful outcome. If the ‘My Will Be Done’ folks would commit to zero crime tolerance, the emerging scene downtown will bear fruit. Short of a Damascus Road conversion, it is like the AA premise: you can’t reason with a person who still drinks and you can’t reason with people who have learned how to rig the system and like it. Let us continue to work towards the next election, where four seats are available. Each of these seats must have a commitment to Rocky Mount’s basic needs: significant crime reduction, safe neighborhoods, restored housing, education, and jobs. 

 

Troy Davis is a long way down the road from these photographs I took early on. He is creating 32 apartments above street level in two buildings on Main Street that were allowed to deteriorate because ordinances weren’t enforced on cronies who owned the buildings. The renewed concept of living above the store is a great step forward. The accredited cities I mentioned in the last post follow the Main Street program. The apartments I have seen, and written about, made me covet the convenience, and the lifestyle. Without crime reduction, Troy and others will suffer the consequences of potential residents and customers with safety concerns. This must not happen. This financial risk and that of other brave-hearts helping to save Main Street are essential. Those who are planting their flags around town are heroes. We have confidence in the men and women in law enforcement. Let them do the jobs they are trained for. Forget the latest bright idea, a revised development agency and a new hire to further the personal gain skullduggery. What is needed is leadership and a will to declare crime will no longer be tolerated. Clampdown, concentrate within an area with known crime until it is driven out and kept out. Let law enforcement prevail.

John Jesso Remains Rocky Mount’s Codega

I’m thinking of John Jesso today. I first met him when I went to his office to inquire about starting the blog, Main Street Rocky Mount.  Would I be stepping on anyone’s toes? John listened to my ideas  and without hesitation,  said, “I would love your help in highlighting  the beautiful story of Rocky Mount.” 316 published posts later, John remains my cheer leader. His friendship is precious to me. When I came across the idea of a Codega, I knew immediately that this concept applied to John; then the Downtown Development Manager of Rocky Mount.

“In Venice in the Middle Ages there was a profession for a man called a codega. – a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection throughout the dark streets.”

John remains Rocky Mount’s tireless codega. He continues to hold his lantern high, showing all who come our way the possibilities that Rocky Mount offers. He has always had great confidence in the future  of Rocky Mount. In the next chapter of his life he brings his expertise to Chambliss Rabil Commercial Reality. John and his partner Lee Mears, have in recent months effected the sale, lease or have under management in downtown alone over 165,000 square feet of space.  One of my Main Street heroes, is Troy White, with all the saving and repurposing of buildings on Main and Howard Street that he is working on. We have not met although I feel I know Troy through John Jesso.

I asked Troy for a quote I could use to illustrate John’s continual pursuit of  investors who are central to the “repairing of the breach.” Here is the lovely answer I received. It proves my point that John remains the Codega of Main Street who brings a man like Troy White to the community. Thank You, John! Thank you Troy for this comment and sweet thoughts, which I did not include but appreciate!

John and I met through a mutual friend that I was doing a favor for.  The friend asked me to assist him in looking over a building he was interested in purchasing in Rocky Mount.  We were both living in Durham and he knew John and scheduled a meeting to view the building and brought me along for my professional opinion.   We met John in front of 202 Main st.  That was where and how I was introduced to and  met John.  He and I would hit it off and he would invite me back to Rockymount to take a look at some of the other buildings in the downtown area.   I fell hard for the two sister buildings on Howard St. They were in horrible shape but I could see the potential. I would later talk to some clients of mine about 202 Howard St. and they purchased that building as well.   Since that time I have periodically come to Rockymount and my relationship with John grew stronger every trip. Now I consider him a true friend and I am overwhelmed with all of the possibilities for the future of Rockymount.   Since then, many other friends of mine have purchased property in Rockymount and plan to either develop or move to Rockymount as I do.

Well Stepheny, thats the short but complete version.  I look forward to meeting you and I want to thank you for all of  the support you have given me and my team. I look forward to meeting you soon.  You are so beautiful to me as well.  Smile.

Look For This Signage Along Main Street Area