The project to freshen up the look of downtown Laurinburg took an important step forward on Wednesday when nearly a dozen area contractors toured the city’s central business district.
Joined by members of the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation, including the group’s chairman Jim Willis, the contractors were invited to see firsthand the work that the LDRC has planned for downtown and to offer their advice.
“By going together, building by building down the street, they all could lend their expertise and tell us what needs to be done. Then when they give their bids, they will all be for the same thing,” Willis said.
Last year when the LDRC first asked for bids to paint, pressure wash and repair the facades of several downtown buildings some of the responses were drastically different. As it turned out, a few of the contractors were not fully aware of what the work entailed.
“When we first asked for bids, the dollar amounts were far apart in some cases, and it turned out they were not all for the same work. With everyone going out and seeing the buildings together, that won’t be a problem now.”
Following the collation of the information gathered on Wednesday by Laurinburg City Planner Brandi Deese, the contractors will be given two weeks to offer bids to the LDRC.
According to Jeanette Herlocker, an LDRC executive board member, this is the first time all of the contractors bidding on the project have been together with LDRC representatives.
“I think we learned a lot from them. There is a lot more to this project than anybody originally thought,” Herlocker said.
There is symbolic significance to Wednesday’s Main Street tour, added Herlocker.
“This was a must. It is a statement about how serious the (LDRC) is. My feeling is that a lot of people don’t think anything will ever happen (to improve downtown Laurinburg). I hear that a lot. But it’s going to happen now.”
The nature of the revitalization effort has evolved and changed several times in just the past four months according to LDRC project manager Baxter Lee, who signed on as project manager last year.
Because they operate with limited funds, the LDRC is constantly trying to properly weigh their downtown repair and improvement priorities.
“Every time I go downtown I look at it differently,” said Lee, saying that he thinks finding a balance between aesthetics and functionality is the LDRC’s most important challenge. “You can’t just wash it and paint it.”
It is also challenging dealing with the approximately 30 owners of the 51 downtown properties being looked at by the LDRC, said Lee.
Agreeing with Lee, Herlocker said that the scope of the project has expanded to include some repair work.
“Originally the plan was that we wanted to make everything look better. Once we started looking closely, we see things getting ready to fall, and we realized that they have to be addressed. We want to attract new business, but they won’t come when things look like this,” Herlocker said.
And while acknowledging the challenges that they face, including the mounting project costs, Willis, Herlocker and Lee say that they have several examples to follow.
“Maxton has done a terrific job with some of their buildings. So have Bennettsville and Cheraw (in South Carolina),” Willis said. “What they have done there, that was our intent here. To make all of Main Street look better.”
“Each of those downtowns look beautiful now,” Herlocker added. “It happened there. And it’s going to happen here.”