Great Places 2019 Winners

Professional’s Category: Great Street

Rail Trail, Charlotte

The Charlotte Rail Trail is not really a street, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. The aptly named Rail Trail is two and a half miles of asphalt and concrete pathway running parallel to the LYNX Blue Line light rail corridor as it passes through South End, one of Charlotte’s most dynamic neighborhoods. The evolution of the Rail Trail over the last dozen years is directly tied to the remarkable transformation of the South End neighborhood from a gritty warehousing and industrial district into one of the hottest residential neighborhoods in the South.

Charlotte’s Rail Trail is a place for free expression and experimentation. Artists and makers have practically free reign to use the trail to display artwork, sculpture, and installations intended for the enjoyment of Trail users, with little or no official interference. Like all great streets, the Rail Trail is multi-functional. Aside from being a transportation facility and neighborhood gathering place, the Rail Trail is South End’s most prominent public common open space, a linear neighborhood park in an area sorely lacking in such places. It is a place where residents gather to meet up with friends, people watch, and see and be seen. The Charlotte Rail Trail is, by any measure, now the center of the South End neighborhood.


Professional’s Category: Great Street in the Making

Queen Street, Kinston

Queen Street in Kinston was once a thriving downtown street, a wide thoroughfare with entertainment and restaurants, but this city, like many others, felt the loss of the tobacco industry in the region and has been experiencing a declining population. Through this revitalization project, Queen Street will once again become an attractive, lively, safe place that people will flock to, in the heart of a growing restaurant scene, and the central spine of the city. Bolstered by a nationally renowned restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, and the popular Mother Earth Brewing in the neighborhood, this rejuvenated street will play a large part in giving the historic city the loving makeover it deserves.

Kinston is investing over $3 million in our Queen Street Streetscape project. They are improving the soil structure, reverting the street layout to the historic and once iconic “Magic Mile” style, which features angled parking, two lanes of traffic, and a much more pedestrian-friendly construction. This is a preservation and honor to the history of Kinston, turning back to years when this street was the focal point of the region. Through the revitalization of Queen Street, Kinston endeavors to create that historic magic once more, providing a regional boulevard that attracts visitors, shoppers, and investors from all around.



Professional’s Category: Great Transformation

Union Station, Raleigh

Raleigh Union Station is the result of an overhaul of two previously undervalued sites on the West side of downtown Raleigh – the old Amtrak Station that was outdated, uncomfortable, and small and an old warehouse building bordering the railway that had been vacant since 2005. The former Amtrak station, which is just blocks South of the new Union Station, was over capacity and not befitting of a growing city. At the same time, the area nearby, the Warehouse district, was overlooked, underused, and in need of investment that would spur its renaissance.

Through the collaborative efforts of city planners, the council, and the private sector, Raleigh Union Station opened in Spring 2018 and became not only a new multi-modal transit center, but a new gathering place and a catalyst for development of the Warehouse District. It is an adaptive reuse of the old Viaduct building that blends modern architecture with industrial touches and environmentally-friendly design. It effortlessly references both Raleigh’s past and future and acts as an entryway to downtown for visitors arriving by train. Since development on the station began, the Warehouse district has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and was named one of the country’s “Top 12 Up and Coming Neighborhoods” by This transformative project is not only a transportation hub, but a symbol of Raleigh’s future.


Alpine Mill, Morganton

Prior to its purchase by Airlie Properties in 2010, Alpine Mill No. 7 was an abandoned furniture plant that had been defunct for decades. The building was constructed in 1949 as the Drexel Heritage Plant No. 7 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark due to its prominence in the once thriving local furniture industry. Airlie Properties invested $6.5 million into transforming the property into a mixed-use residential and commercial development, with 47 apartment units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space, all located in Downtown Morganton.

With the building positioned on the edge of Downtown Morganton, it acts as a gateway into the heart of the City. Renovating the property transformed the skyline of the City’s downtown and turned an eyesore into an aesthetically pleasing and welcoming keystone of the area’s ongoing development. The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., is donating a large public art installation honoring textile workers in Burke County and North Carolina to be placed on the property, which will denote the area’s history and connect its past uses to its current development.



People’s Choice: Great Historic Rehabilitation

Reeves Theater, Elkin

After two decades, the dilapidated Reeves Theater was recently renovated into a live music venue, bar and Farm-to-Table café. The interior of the historic landmark in downtown Elkin was nothing but an empty shell, yet most of the original porcelain façade tiles were saved in the basement. Once the interior was distinctively rebuilt and the front façade reconstructed into its original 1940’s colorful Art Deco style, this new space on Main Street has turned Elkin’s historic downtown into an entertainment district, offering monthly Martha Bassett Shows; live music, open mic and movie nights; and Live at Five community events.


The Norris House, Raleigh

After the Civil War, North Blount Street became one of Raleigh’s finest neighborhoods. Built in 1879, the Norris House sits amongst large, impressive dwellings reflective of the Victorian period. The home lost much of its original Victorian charm as renovations and expansions transformed the home to a boarding house and eventually State offices. The original Italianate front elevation was removed, decorative trim and fireplaces destroyed, and the home sat vacant for many years. Thanks to restoration efforts between 2016-2018, the Norris House now displays its original front elevation along with many other restored elements. The project was guided by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for rehabilitation and is a historic tax credit project.


People’s Choice: Great Public Art

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Wilson

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park was a collaborative effort to create a catalytic project. The Whirligigs, gigantic kinetic sculptures created by Wilson County-native Vollis Simpson, were restored and relocated to a two-acre park spanning a city block in the heart of historic downtown Wilson. The park hosts approximately 30 whirligigs, some standing more than 50 feet tall. Just one year out from a fully operating Whirligig Park, recent downtown investment is expected to almost match the total investment over the last eight years combined.


“Milling Around”, Clinton

The “Milling Around” art piece by Heidi Lippman in downtown Clinton exhibits the importance of agriculture in the heart of Sampson County with a design centered around a millstone. The City of Clinton also developed our City and Downtown Clinton brands around the millstone, encouraging citizens and visitors alike to “Mill Around Downtown Clinton”.  This piece was developed as part of a partnership between the City of Clinton, Sampson Arts Council, NC Arts Council and private contributors.


“Across the Grain”, Lenoir

Downtown Lenoir is renowned for its displays of public art and sculpture. Using a technique called earthcasting, international artist Thomas Sayre created a concrete mold in the earth. The process resulted in an inspiring 26-foot diameter, 40,000-pound centerpiece for Caldwell County’s sculpture collection. Complimenting the Across the Grain sculpture, downtown Lenoir also hosts “Wherever Flames May Rage” by Kue King and several rotating sculptures throughout the Tucker’s Gallery display. Lenoir is a great place for public art! Together We Create.


Hillside Basketball Courts, Durham

A local park that was once blighted and unappealing for residents to visit has now been activated by colorful ground-plane murals and renovated facilities, thanks to a partnership between the Grant Hill Foundation, FILA sports brand, and the City of Durham’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The partnership funded the renovations of three outdoor basketball courts, new backboards, and updates to the fencing and landscaping. The courts were redesigned with colorful artwork by local artist Sarahlaine Calva and installed by her team of young artists.