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Norwood Town Council hears presentation on downtown revitalization

A presentation at the recent meeting of the Norwood Town Council set forth the plans for revitalization of the downtown business district at Campbell Street.

Presenting the plans to the Town Council was Robin Davis, president of the Central Downtown Business Group. Davis owns Reservoir Coffee and helped start the CDBG, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization which has basically taken the place of the Norwood Business Association.

Davis, a previous member of the NBA, said the CDBG’s goals “are completely different” from what the NBA was doing. She said the former group’s efforts were already being met in Norwood by the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce and Stanly Community College. Davis said the CDBG is concentrating more on the central business area, such as Campbell and Main streets.

“We really wanted to focus on creating community, not just with the businesses but with the members of the town,” Davis said. “We wanted to bring some vitality to this particular area.”

She was joined by Zane Carroll, an intern working as a downtown revitalization specialist with the town. Carroll’s efforts are funded by the UNC School of Government and AmeriCorps, a volunteer civil society program supported by the federal government.

In her presentation to the council, Davis said 12 new businesses have opened in the downtown area since the plans for revitalization began. She added the town has “consistent, continuous interest in businesses wanting to come to the downtown specifically.”

Davis said surveys are underway for the area which will be needed to construct sidewalks on Campbell Street.

Carroll said the plan has five components to it, including infrastructure of sidewalks, parking and crosswalks. She said one reason for the construction would be to improve accessibility and safety for people of all ages and abilities.

“If we’re investing this time and money into the space, we want people to use it,” Carroll said.

Burying electrical lines is also part of the plan. Carroll noted large machinery going through Norwood to get to the new intake plant for the Union County water transfer line. One picture she showed depicted a truck knocking over power lines, which kept businesses in the downtown area without power for up to three days.

Councilman Wes Hatley said Union County was not responsible for those damages, but the trucking companies were. Town Administrator Scott Howard said Union County was assisting the town in getting the insurance policy numbers from those companies.

“We circled back and got (with) Union County, who is employing them, and now (the trucking companies) are being a little more cooperative,” Howard said.

Carroll said another part of the plan was creating a green space in downtown by building a pocket park. Pocket parks are small, public areas with greenery, benches and other features in urban areas.

“The goals of the green space are generally safety, health and beautification,” Carroll said.

Referring to the COVID-19 shutdown of indoor eating, Carroll said a pocket park would create common spaces downtown businesses and restaurants could use with outdoor seating for people.

Murals will soon be a part of the new downtown space, Carroll said, with the town already receiving grants for two murals to be created. The goal is to have five murals created in downtown, she added.

The existing space for the Norwood Farmers Market will be expanded with streetlights for visibility at night.

One big feature of the plan would be Stanly’s only shared commercial kitchen at 117 Campbell St. The building is currently storage, but Carroll said a new incubator kitchen would allow caterers, start-up food businesses and others access to industrial-type kitchen equipment.

A commercial kitchen can “mitigate the start-up costs” for a new business, Carroll said. The kitchen, she said, would incentivize entrepreneurship.

The space would also be an indoor space for the market in case of inclement weather or during the colder months of the year, she added.

Carroll said later the kitchen would likely charge an hourly fee and expect those using the facility to bring their own small ware utensils. People would be required to clean the kitchen before and after each use.

Davis also said many people cook out of their own homes, selling cupcakes and such. She added the kitchen could help people bring products to the farmers market made in a certified kitchen.

“We know we have community members that are selling things that are not made out of these safe kitchens. We have a need for (the community kitchen),” Davis said.

Davis said the CDBG plans to purchase a property at 110 Campbell St.

She said the building’s “historical location and significance,” and its architecture is “important for us to maintain.”

Funds for the property, she said, would go back to the revitalization project.

The building “is in much need of attention,” Davis said, noting trees were growing out of the roof.

Davis said she believes there is a mechanism for nonprofits to purchase a town-owned building.

“A lot of revitalization projects are started with towns getting properties out of their hands into private use…we believe we can repurpose (the building) and make it a viable building for our community,” Davis said.

Norwood Mayor Linda Campbell said the money the town would make for selling the property would go back into the revitalization plan.

The commercial kitchen would also be a place for food truck owners to set up and receive health department inspections, Campbell said.

Carroll said the town is waiting to hear from a number of grants for which they have applied to fund the project. She s working on additional grant applications as well.

The feasibility study in progress, Carroll said, will help her determine how much the plan’s overall cost might be. Most kitchens, she said, get grant money from the Department of Agriculture. The town is also applying for money from the American Rescue Plan Act as well, she said.

“We fully intend to have this (plan) be grant-based. There could be some matching funds that the town provides, but that’s really up to the council to decide what they want to do,” Carroll said.

Davis said Stanly’s chances of pulling in great big companies to locate here to help with economic development “is difficult because of our capacity for housing and training. Small, entrepreneurial efforts are a way to build our local economy. I think the commercial kitchen is a natural fit.”

The plan is still being developed as to which projects will happen in what order, Carroll said. She added that focusing efforts on a small area such as Campbell Street would give the plan a starting point.

No timeline is set, but Davis said realistically the revitalization plan could be a seven- to 10-year project.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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