Johnny Woodard Staff Reporter
August 20, 2013
With phase one of an ongoing mission to rehabilitate downtown Laurinburg drawing to a close, Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation leaders say the success has left them wiser, and ready for the next step.
“We have learned a lot and as a whole we are pleased with what has been done,” said LDRC Chairman Jim Willis this week.
Nearly complete, “phase one” of LDRC’s larger plan included painting and pressure washing downtown buildings as well as some parapet and awning repair.
After receiving some bids as high as $300,000 for the work, LDRC eventually agreed to contract with Laurinburg-based Thames Construction at a cost of $85,000, and Willis says the results could not have been better.
“We are delighted with how it has gone,” he said.
While the work got fully underway in early April, Willis said the planning process “was not as simple as ‘paint that building and make it look better.’”
“In the beginning we knew simply that we wanted to improve the appearance of downtown. But we didn’t even really know how to go out and as for bids,” Willis explained.
After an initial round of bids led to more questions from contractors than answers, LDRC took a group of local contractors on a nearly-three hour Main Street walkabout in February.
“There were so many different properties, built in different times and made of different materials … and the pre-bid walk-through really taught us a lot. There was much more to be done than we realized,” Willis said.
The next challenge was to get each of the owners of the fifty-plus buildings to agree to the improvements, a task which was spearheaded by Baxter Lee.
Now that phase one is nearly complete, Willis said that LDRC will look to expand the scope of their rehabilitation work to buildings off Main Street, but still in the Central Business District area served by the LDRC.
“Our intention is to look at every property in the Central Business District.”
Main Street, Willis said, was chosen for the first round of improvements because of its status as the face of the business district and the city.
In the end, the goal is to return the Main Street and the Central Business District to full occupancy, and it seems that the work is already paying off as two new businesses have been drawn downtown since February.
“The idea is to not have any empty buildings, to create interest and to draw customers.”
Currently there are about five rental spaces (that would not require major renovations to open for business) in the area of downtown.