Great Places 2018 Winners

Professional’s Category: Great Main Street

Main Street, Sylva

Main Street in Sylva blends the town’s rich cultural history with a vibrant downtown atmosphere and the surrounding beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Main Street is anchored by the Jackson County historic courthouse, the most photographed courthouse in North Carolina. From its perch 107 steps above Main Street, this Nationally Registered Historic site houses the County library, the Genealogical Society, the Historical Society, and provides community meeting space. Sweeping down the hill from the Courthouse, locals and visitors alike are treated to an eclectic blend of retail shops, restaurants, breweries, cocktail bars, book stores, and residential apartments all located within buildings that are a part of Sylva’s Nationally Registered Historic District. Main Street also serves as the epicenter for Sylva’s annual festivals, parades, and community events. The one of a kind appeal of Main Street Sylva is undeniable, even in Hollywood. Main Street was cast as Ebbing, Missouri in the 2017 Golden Globe and Oscar winning movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Although Ebbing is a fictional town, Main Street is very real and continues to be the cultural center of Sylva’s vibrant downtown.

Main Street, Waxhaw

Downtown Waxhaw has thrived throughout the years by its ability to evolve. Waxhaw started as a mill town, then reinvented itself as a destination for antiques, and is now becoming Union County’s hub for diverse retail shops, award-winning eating and drinking establishments, local artisans, and cultural events. The downtown is split by the railroad track with Main Street on each side. An overhead pedestrian bridge joins the two, and when trains roll through you always finds excited people standing on the bridge as it travels beneath them. A lush green lawn follows the railroad tracks, with a walking trail that snakes between flowering trees. The streets are adjacent to the historic buildings, which date as far back as 1888. The downtown form-based code ensures that infill development maintains the historic experience. The Town is currently in the design phase for a $1 million pedestrian and bicycle improvement project that will further enhance the overall experience of Main Street.

Professional’s Category: Great Main Street in the Making

Main Street, Holly Springs

After decades with little new development as growth occurred virtually everywhere except downtown, Main Street in Holly Springs is finally seeing a dramatic transformation. Today, Main Street offers only a couple Town-owned buildings, two small retail centers, an office condominium building, a handful of historic homes and churches, and a few other businesses. That’s changing. Main Street is experiencing a flurry of development activity. More than 100,000 square feet of mixed-use space along two blocks is being constructed and will offer retail, restaurant and office spaces, bringing about 35 businesses downtown (with a future potential of 60 more with Coworking offices), creating about 500 jobs, and making a $49.7 million annual economic impact. Across Main Street from the mixed-use construction, a long-vacant home, said to be one of the town’s oldest, is being renovated into a consignment store and coffee shop. A few blocks down, a home built in the 1840s where a former postmistress distributed mail out her kitchen window is being converted into a Southern-inspired tea room.

The Town is funding more than $9 million in infrastructure and streetscape improvements, constructing a new public parking structure, and building a regional stormwater area that will double as a gathering place with a stage, grass plazas, fountain and more. But even since 2000, the Town has laid the groundwork with several investments along Main Street, including construction of a Town Hall building, parking and more. Past efforts, combined with today’s partnership and interest from private investors and the community, are leading the transformation of Main Street into a destination!

Academy Street, Cary

Academy Street is representative of the larger goals for Cary’s downtown – to be a vibrant, distinctive destination that promotes organic gatherings, street music, and economic development. Connected by wide sidewalks that feature intermittent seating, “outdoor rooms” create unique gathering areas along the street and reinforce Academy Street’s sense of place and highlight the beauty of urban outdoor space. Centered on a unified vision of a vibrant public space, the team developed a concept of interwoven design elements forming a path between the Arts District, Village, and Main Street. These varied elements create opportunities for engagement, support foot traffic near local businesses, and honor Cary’s past while looking to the future. This melding of tradition with rich cultural experiences and commercial destinations is a trademark of successful downtown revitalizations, and one that is embraced by the Cary citizens.

Professional’s Category: Great Transformation

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, Winston-Salem

The Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, an urban mixed-use innovation district in Downtown Winston-Salem, has developed through the transformation/renovation of former R. J. Reynolds tobacco facilities adjacent to downtown Winston-Salem.  The Reynolds structures were constructed primarily in the 1920s, with additions/improvements continuing through the 1960s.  At that time, Reynolds began decentralizing its manufacturing facilities with its last downtown facility closing in 1990. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center saw the potential in these vacant structures, and began using a building donated by Reynolds for research purposes in 1994.  In the 2000s, 3 new buildings totaling 320,000 square feet were constructed.  Since 2010, 7 additional former tobacco structures and land donated by Reynolds has been developed into 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space.   Preservation NC recently declared that the Innovation Quarter is home to the largest historic redevelopment project in the history of North Carolina. Today, the Innovation Quarter is one of the fastest-growing urban innovation districts in the country–a national center for research, education, and business in biomedical science, information technology, clinical services, and advanced materials.  The Innovation Quarter is currently home to 150 companies, 5 academic institutions, 1,500 undergraduate/graduate students, and 3,600 employees.  The district presently contains 1.9 million square feet of office, laboratory, and education space along with 1,230 multifamily units representing a $700 million capital investment.

Peace Street, Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh is growing and its downtown edges are expanding. In order to capture the growth and excitement in a meaningful way, Raleigh’s downtown borders must transform into gateways that link the urban core to Raleigh’s other industrial, residential and commercial hubs. The heavily traveled Peace Street hugs the northern edge of Raleigh’s downtown and is a crucial connection to major thoroughfares and well-loved retail hubs like Seaboard Station and Cameron Village. Peace Street has lacked pedestrian, bicycle and green infrastructure and was lined with aging buildings and bridges. However, through an intense visioning process for downtown Raleigh, streetscape plans, new development and revitalization projects, Peace Street is transforming into the main street of a thriving urban neighborhood. As described in Raleigh’s 2015 Downtown Plan, Peace Street “fills the gaps between existing assets to create a complete neighborhood that combines new housing options with unique local retail and dining.”

People’s Choice: Great Historic Rehabilitation

Mount Pleasant Hosiery Mill, Mount Pleasant

Located in Mount Pleasant’s National Register Historic District, the 73 & Main Restaurant was originally built circa 1912 as a mercantile. The mercantile was converted to a hosiery mill in the 1930s and operated until 2009. After sitting vacant for over 8 years, the building was donated to the Town of Mount Pleasant. In 2017, the Town accepted a bid proposal, and the new owner meticulously rehabilitated the building to its 1912 glory using historic tax credits. This public-private project has breathed new life into downtown Mount Pleasant, prompting the completion of a municipal parking lot, attracting new businesses, and inspiring other property owners to examine potential improvements to their own buildings. This project is an example of what great historic rehabilitation can do for a community.

People’s Choice: Great Place for Healthy Living

North Park Farmers’ Market, Alamance County

The North Park Farmers’ Market began through the efforts of Healthy Alamance to address community assessment priorities which identify access to care, economics, and education as the top three needs in Alamance County. North Park is an exciting new frontier in Burlington’s food scene. Currently, there are no grocery stores offering fresh food in the surrounding neighborhood, and residents are eager for such a venue. The Farmer’s Market at North Park fills this gap while facilitating relationships between consumers and producers and educating consumers on nutrition, local business, and food systems. Alamance County is an agricultural county at heart, and the Farmer’s Market at North Park celebrates that heritage. The Market serves farmers by providing a new consumer base, while creating a community gathering space that provides residents fresh, healthy food and nutrition education.