LAURINBURG —Laurinburg needs help from its residents to create a vision for the future of downtown.
To get that assistance, city leaders plan to host a Downtown Vision Forum on April 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the A.B. Gibson Center. The purpose of the forum is to gather input from residents on what is good about downtown, what needs improvement, and the area should become in the future. There will be light refreshments beginning at 5 p.m.
The forum is part of Laurinburg’s participation in the Downtown Associate Community Program run by the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center of the Department of Commerce.
“Downtown is the center of our community and its health and vitality are of critical importance to us all,” said Michael Mandeville, Laurinburg Community Development director.
During the forum, attendees will be placed in small groups to identify downtown Laurinburg’s strengths and weaknesses and to then write vision statements.
The city is also looking for six to 10 residents to volunteers to arrive at the A.B. Gibson Center at 4:30 p.m. to receive a short training in order to be team leaders during the forum.
The vision statements should be based on the city’s economic drivers and describe what we want downtown to be, according to Mandeville. “This process will allow us to involve many people representing many interests in our community. This input is critical as we begin working on a long-range plan for our downtown area.”
There will also be a follow-up session on April 5 at 8 a.m. in the Laurinburg City Council chambers.
Those who plan to attend must RSVP for not only the Vision Forum, but also let the city know if they wish to be a volunteer team leader, as well as is they will be going to the follow-up session the morning following the forum.
“We need your help. I hope that you will be able to join in this important planning event,” Mandeville said.
The Downtown Associate Community Program was launched in May 2015 to allow North Carolina communities to become affiliated with the NC Main Street Center to receive downtown revitalization services. The inaugural class of the program includes Laurinburg Aberdeen, Chimney Rock, Elon and Laurinburg.
“I am absolutely delighted that Laurinburg was able to be awarded to be a part of the Downtown Associate Community Program, as one of only four recipients out of 100 applicants,” said Jim Willis, owner of the downtown business, Shirt Tales.
Since being added to the Associate Main Street program, the city has received a grant for more than $94,000, which has gone toward new street lights, as well as the downtown walk through project, which is currently under construction.
According to City Manager Charles Nichols, $30,000 has been budgeted from the grant for the walk through to connect Main Street with the parking lot behind the buildings on the west side of the street.
The city hopes to be fully admitted into North Carolina Main Street Program by July 2018.
“This is our priority. Since Michael (Mandeville) was brought on board, it has been priority one to get through this process and to make sure we get Main Street status,” Nichols said.
The NC Main Street Center will select communities every other year via a competitive application process. North Carolina municipalities with an identifiable traditional downtown business district and a certified population under 50,000 not already designated as an active Main Street or Small Town Main Street community are eligible to apply to the Center for services under the Downtown Associate Community Program. Selected communities will receive up to three years of downtown revitalization technical assistance services from the NC Main Street Center and may have the opportunity to move up to Main Street designation upon successful completion of the program.
“The Main Street approach is widely recognized as the best approach to rejuvenate downtown’s and what has become universally accepted today that was not necessarily so in the late 1980’s, when we started the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation (LDRC), is the importance of downtown,” said Willis, a former LDRC chairman. “I think the proof of that is the fact that the city is involved in it.”
Harley Norris, Harley’s Tuxedo owner, said he hopes the process spurs additional growth in downtown.
“With the things that are going on here and with outside investors coming in, taking a hard look at Laurinburg and investing in us, I would hope that some locals would come down and invest in the downtown area,” said Norris. “I am excited about it and a certainly hope it brings a renewed interest in people with downtown.”
For information or to RSVP, call Michael Mandeville at 910-276-8324 or email him at [email protected]
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171