hosts NC Main Street Conference
By Bill Crabtree
Carolina Main Street” held its 24th Annual Awards Banquet
in Morganton on January 29, capping a two-day conference that attracted
“Main Street” officials from across the state, including
several from North Carolina’s Public Power communities.
The North Carolina Main Street Program is a downtown revitalization
effort based on economic development with an emphasis on historic
preservation. The program is part of the Department of Commerce’s
Division of Community Assistance.
Rodney Swink, director of the office of Urban Development for the
state, said the night was designed to honor and acknowledge those
who are dedicated to maintaining a quality of life through downtown
revitalization and development.
Swink introduced Morganton Mayor Mel Cohen at the program’s
outset and called him a “true champion of downtown development
in Morganton and across the state.”
Cohen spoke about the first efforts over 20 years ago to revitalize
downtown Morganton, which involved burying utility lines underground.
Cohen said it was his first taste of public serve, and although
he was a full-time salesman at the time, it wasn’t long before
he took on a second job as the city’s first Main Street director.
“I must tell you,” said Cohen, “as much as I
love the job of mayor, I’ve never done anything that was as
much fun or as much of a challenge as leading the Main Street program
North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Jim Fain was the evening’s
He emphasized the value of attractive communities and commended
the participant cities and towns for their dedication to the Main
“We dare not let our center cities be anything less than
a source of pride,” said Fain.
“A community’s downtown is the front porch of that
town or city. It says a lot about the people who live there and
what they’re willing to do.”
North Carolina Main Street has expanded from six original communities
in 1980 to over 49 today. Over the last 20 years, these communities
have enjoyed tremendous success in revitalizing their downtowns.
Since 1980, they have seen nearly 2,500 buildings renovated, 10,000
new jobs created, and 4,300 new businesses opened. Total investment
in these downtowns has been more than $540 million over the last
NC Main Street Assistant Director Meg Dees said the conference
was well attended despite the ice and snow that blanketed much of
the state in the days leading up to the event. She also had high
praise for Morganton as the host city.
"We were all thrilled with the NC Main Street Conference and
Awards Program this year,” said Dees. “We had participants
from across North Carolina, as well as Virginia and South Carolina.
The presenters were all well received and participants left the
conference excited and ready to go home and work. Morganton was
a wonderful example of a successful Main Street Program and was
a great setting to hold the events."
The following Public Power communities were honored during the
Best Public-Private Partnership in Downtown Revitalization
Certificate of Special Recognition: Loving Associates for
Millside Manor, Morganton
Best Public Improvement: Cabarrus Arts Council,
City of Concord and Concord Downtown Development Corporation for
“Windows on Cabarrus,” Concord
Best Historic Rehabilitation Project: Bob
Still for Former Shelby City Hall and Colonial Development, LLC
for Mimosa Theatre, Morganton.
Certificate of Special Recognition: Mr. and
Mrs. James Narron for Capital Department Store Project, Smithfield
Best Downtown Special Event: Uptown Lexington,
Inc. for Pigs in the City Public Art Initiative 2003, Lexington.
Best Main Street Newsletter: Elizabeth City
Downtown, Inc. for “The Downtowner,” Elizabeth City
Best Printed Promotional Item: Uptown Lexington,
Inc. for Pigs in the City 2003 Poster, Lexington
At the program’s close, Main Street honored its “2003
Main Street Champions.” These are people from each Main Street
city or town who have demonstrated a sincere love for their community
and a tireless commitment to downtown revitalization.
Honorees from Public Power communities were Margaret Snyder, Albemarle;
Leslie Cook, Concord; John Larry Sellers, Edenton; Rep. Bill Owens
and Zack Robertson, Elizabeth City; Michael Cable, Farmville; Jack
Murphy, Forest City; Phil McMullan, Hertford; Danny Nicholson, Sr.,
Lexington; Rosalind Welder, Lincolnton; Dawn Collins, Monroe; Mayor
Mel Cohen, Morganton; Jim Hicks, New Bern; Neal Powell, Newton;
Joe Henderson, Shelby; Tina Hobbs, Smithfield; Sheryl Toukola, Statesville;
and Mark Clasby, Waynesville.