APA-NC Recognizes Goldsboro’s Center Street as its 2015 Great Place in the Making

Written by Ben Hitchings, APA-NC Past President

The story of Goldsboro’s work to revitalize Center Street is a tale of civic courage and collaboration. The community’s energy and commitment were broadly evident on Friday, September 18th as APA-NC recognized Goldsboro’s Center Street as a Great Main Street in the Making.

APA-NC Past President, Ben Hitchings, with staff of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation (from right to left) -- Elizabeth Rutland, Julie Metz, and Erin Fonsaca

APA-NC Past President, Ben Hitchings, with staff of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation (from right to left) — Elizabeth Rutland, Julie Metz, and Erin Fonsaca

According to local legend, in 1847 civic boosters put moonshine in the Town well to encourage people to vote for Goldsboro as the seat of Wayne County. The strategy worked, and that civic pride lives on today in the exciting work that Goldsboro is undertaking to revitalize its historic downtown. In 2006, Goldsboro hired Allison Platt and Associates to work with the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation and the City to prepare a Downtown Master Plan. The signature project for implementing the plan is a four-block transformation of Center Street. Improvements include new roundabouts, public art, bike lanes, wide sidewalks, mid-block crosswalks, underground utilities, Wi-Fi, game stations, shade trees, and a 12-foot high granite water fountain. The result is an Extreme Streetscape Makeover that highlights the power of place making to bring people downtown and energize the historic heart of a community.

To undertake the project, the city invested $6 million in local funds, which so far has catalyzed more than $10 million in private investment, and enabled the city to win a $10 million TIGER grant. But the outcome was not always certain. In 2013, progress on the project depended on a critical vote of the city council to provide a $3.5 million match for the TIGER grant application, along with another $500,000 to ensure that the project was shovel-ready at application time. Initially, naysayers were the louder voice in the community. But on the night of the vote, the house was packed with supporters. Mayor Al King led a majority of the Council in authorizing the funds, setting the stage for the successful TIGER grant application.

This past Friday, APA-NC Past President, Ben Hitchings, presented Mayor King with APA-NC’s 2015 award for Great Main Street in the Making in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the annual dinner and awards ceremony for the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation. This recognition was made possible by the collaborative efforts of elected officials, community leaders, local merchants, city staff, nonprofit organizations, and many others, working together to remake Goldsboro’s historic center into a vibrant hub of commerce and community. To see the transformation in person, come to Goldsboro for the Center Street ribbon cutting event being planned for later this fall. For more information, call the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation at 919/735-4959 or visit the City of Goldsboro’s webpage on the project at www.ci.goldsboro.nc.us/streetscape2014.aspx. You can’t help but be impressed by Goldsboro’s strong plan implementation and wonderful civic spirit!

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