LAURINBURG — Laurinburg’s new community development director, told members of the Laurinburg Rotary, that he is “hard at work” trying to revitalize not only downtown, but improve the city’s economic fortunes as a well.
Michael Mandeville, who took the position in May, said in that brief time has worked to secure several grants to aid economic and industrial development. He was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Laurinburg Rotary Club at the Masonic Lodge.
“We have been awarded a couple of grants recently including one for $700,000 for industrial development,” he said. “We have a company coming in a few weeks to market the land. We also received a grant for $94,000 to downtown development.”
Mandeville said the city also received a $60,000 grant to create a pass through, where the old McDuffie building currently stands, to open up more parking for downtown. Another $15,000 will be used towards LED lighting for the downtown area and a $19,000 grant has been secured to build a stage in the city’s Art Garden, which sits on the corner of W. Church and Main St.
Mandeville said the city will also apply for grants from the North Carolina Department of Commerce to fund additional lighting for trees in the downtown area.
“We want downtown Laurinburg to be safer and more well lit so people will feel comfortable walking around in the evenings,” he said.
The city is also looking into using the money for new signage to direct travelers from U.S. 74 and N.C. 401 into the core of Laurinburg.
“Over the past few years people have been going away from shopping malls and moving back towards downtown,” Mandeville said. “We have an advantage with I-74 and people passing through on their way to the beach. We just have to figure out how to get all of those travelers not to pass us and newer/nicer signs directing them into downtown would certainly help.”
Additional retail space could be going in next to the Food Lion once the city clears some of the foliage that blocks travelers view of the grocery store and shops in that area.
“We are looking at running sewer to that site this fall and then possibly having either a restaurant or a retail store go in there,” Mandeville said. “It has easy on/off access to the interstate which makes it ideal.”
Mandeville is also in the process of designing a new logo and tag line for the city.
Two executives from the Downtown Associate Community Program — Liz Parham and Sherry Adams — will be in town on Sept. 14 to meet with Mandeville, Nichols and other city officials to lay out a road map for how Laurinburg can become an NC Main Street City.
The NC Main Street program assists selected communities across the state in restoring economic vitality to their historic downtowns. Using a comprehensive downtown revitalization process developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the program encourages economic development through historic preservation.
Laurinburg is one of four municipalities currently participating in the Downtown Associate Community Program along with Aberdeen, Chimney Rock and Elon. The program gives each town three years of assistance from the NC Main Street Center. Once they complete the program and meet the requirements each town can apply for official designation as a Main Street community, which according to Mandeville would open a lot of doors for the city.
“If we can become a Main Street community that would make us eligible for more money for downtown redevelopment,” he said. “The community is welcome to join us for about an hour on Sept. 14 at 8:30 a.m. for about an hour to give their input, ask questions and receive an update on our plans for downtown.”
Mandeville then opened the floor to questions, one Rotary member believed Laurinburg had previously been a Main Street city and wanted to know how the designation had been lost.
“What I was told was Laurinburg applied in either 1987 or 1989 and never got accepted,” he said.
Another Rotary member asked what type of businesses Mandeville hopes to bring to downtown.
“I would like to see a convenience store, a coffee shop where people can sit and catch up,” he said. “Some restaurants, maybe a bar or two and possibly even some apartments on the second and third floors of the historic buildings.”
Mandeville was introduced by city manager Charles Nichols, who gave the Rotary members in attendance a little bit of background on the West Virginia native.
“He is originally from Beckley, West Virginia but most recently was working in transportation in Cumberland County,” Nichols said. “Michael’s wife Holly is the volleyball coach at St. Andrews University and the two have a son named Jackson.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.