Great Places 2015 Winners

Professional’s Category

West Jefferson

West Jefferson was built around the railroad with the structure of the streets and buildings all constructed to serve the railroad. The town maintains some of that early railroad town character, but has worked to reshape the town into a viable destination. The town worked to improve the street network, added public art and public space all in an effort to revitalize the town. West Jefferson plays host to visitors all year long and hospitality is the town’s business. During the holidays, the town is alive with shoppers and every car in town is donned with a Christmas tree. Ashe County is the top producer of trees in the country and people come to get one fresh. In fall, people come to enjoy the changing colors of the trees. You can experience the color on any number of hiking trails but the same view can be found on Jefferson Ave. The Centennial Celebration this year also hopes to draw the community in and those that have called West Jefferson home. Jefferson Ave was made a great place because of the work ethic and community spirit that went into the town. Planning played a key role in laying out the town’s vision of a safe and attractive downtown. These well laid plans became a reality as the town worked with NCDOT and other stakeholders to slow traffic and improve pedestrian access in town.

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Sunset Avenue has stood the test of time. Once home to the many manufacturing facilities that upheld the area’s economy, the downsizing of the textile industry left many downtown stores vacant. After a sustained period of decline, city and community leaders committed to reviving this centerpiece of downtown and have successfully breathed new life into Sunset Avenue and with it, all of Asheboro. It began with a vision of what the downtown area could become. Surrounding communities had embarked on restoring their downtowns and Asheboro was inspired. Over time, an inviting urban park, improved sidewalks, a beautifully restored and publicly-owned theatre, refreshed streetscapes and an array of public art have brought businesses and people back to Sunset Avenue. Partnerships between the city and the Chamber of Commerce have led to a growing list of annual downtown events. The grassroots creation of the Downtown Business Association is leading to the promotion of downtown businesses through collaborative marketing. Public support for the revitalization of Sunset Avenue has been vital. What was once only a dream has now become a reality.

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Main Street Belmont is a special place, retaining its classic small town look and feel while buzzing with economic vitality. Its rich cultural assets, family-friendly entertainment, and active local living only add to the energy of the area. Main Street has been featured in movies and highlighted in magazine and newspaper articles for the Main Street ideals of American pop culture. Historical and regionally iconic places of business, such as a former general store and former department store, are venues that have been reformatted and are active, viable parts of the Main Street experience. Residents fill the historic houses located on and around Main Street, supported by various institutions, civic uses, and recreational opportunities in our downtown district. Belmont attracts thousands of people annually for a variety of reasons. Some people come to experience one of our many special Main Street events such as Red, White, and Belmont, featuring a watermelon eating contest and fireworks display; others come for the fine dining and local shopping; still others come to relax in lawn chairs adjacent to the railroad crossing on Main Street and wave at the train engineer amidst sounds of the train whistle and the children playing in the park.

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New Bern

From a scenic waterfront to historic architecture, Middle Street encapsulates everything that makes New Bern special. The town’s rich history — including colonial, Civil War, and early 20th century — is embodied in the street’s beautifully restored homes, five churches, the early 20th century Blades Mansion, and vibrant commercial district. Access to the Trent River is just steps away. At the same time, the street is a cornerstone for the city as it works to reinvigorate its economy by capitalizing on its two greatest assets: its history and waterfront.
Middle Street was the epicenter of downtown revitalization in the 1980s and today remains the most vibrant street in downtown New Bern. With live work and play opportunities all in short walking distance. Art galleries, restaurants and historic churches abound there. On any given night in the week people of all ages can be found on Middle Street. There are open spaces and loft apartments, dance studios, and eclectic shops. Parades and Festivals come down this street yearly. Middle Street is a destination for New Bern residents and visitors alike.

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Center Street is Goldsboro’s historic main street and when built, it included railroad tracks down its center. In 1926 the tracks were removed leaving a 140’ wide corridor from building edge to building edge. The City utilized the expansive space to maximize vehicular access. In the 1960’s, downtown businesses relocated to new shopping centers. The perceived need to design the space for vehicles rather than pedestrians did not help and we were left with a street that negatively impacted economic activity, community image, pedestrian mobility and vehicular safety. In 2006, the City invested in a downtown master plan and hired a consultant to guide us through the process of creating a plan to serve as a revitalization tool. The resulting top public investment recommendation was a complete transformation of Center Street to address functional, aesthetic, safety, scale and aging infrastructure issues. In 2011, the City embarked on one block of Center Street at a cost of $2.4M. Due to this demonstration of commitment, and its Complete Street design concept, USDOT awarded Goldsboro a 2013 $10M TIGER grant to build three more blocks, southbound. Construction began in August 2014 and will result in three round-a-bouts, public art installations, a 12-foot granite water fountain, bike lanes, extra-wide sidewalks, mid-block cross walks, underground utilities, Wi-Fi, game stations, shade trees and more green space and pedestrian space. Since the 1st block’s completion, 28 businesses have opened and eight properties have been sold to eager new investors.

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People’s Choice

Roanoke Rapids

The Roanoke Canal Trail is a remnant of historic navigation designed to connect the Blue Ridge Mountains and Norfolk. The trail follows the original towpath for 7.2 miles providing pedestrian and cyclist access between Roanoke Rapids Lake Day Use Park and River Falls Park in Weldon. Informational displays along the way illustrate the history of transportation on the Roanoke River from the early 1800s forward. Historic structures and architectural features are preserved to portray the engineering feats. The Canal Trail hosts the annual Roanoke Canal Half-Marathon drawing hundreds of visitors to the Roanoke Valley area.

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This building was renovated after being left vacant for many years. It was the former Farmer and Merchants bank of Kinston. The building is Italian Renaissance Revival, building circa 1924 and designed by Benton/Benton Architects in Wilson, NC. The building is indicative of the grandness of scale from the City Beautiful movement. The building is listed on the national register of historic places and lies within the Queen/Gordon ’89 historic district. The redevelopment was done in concert with State preservationists in the Greenville office.

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