By Allen Turner
The third time might be the charm as the City of Whiteville tries to get state help for a downtown facelift.
Whiteville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to apply for the N.C. Department of Commerce Associate Main Street program that gives selected towns and cities advice on how to revamp their downtown areas.
Whiteville had previously applied for the program twice but was not selected earlier. City Manager Darren Currie told council that the city should get notification by September on whether the most current application approved by council Tuesday is successful. The program accepts new cities every two years. Even though Whiteville’s application didn’t pass this year, it was invited to reapply, perhaps in part for its efforts to establish historic districts and a proposal to add an economic development director who would assist Main Street consultants with downtown redevelopment.
The program gives smaller towns and cities resources to grow their downtowns.
“We’re trying to keep that core in the downtown area,” Currie said. “We’ve got a beautiful depot. That’s kind of an attraction for downtown. It gets utilized for a tremendous amount of events. It brings people into downtown. We want to keep our downtown viable, not only to support the depot but also to support the businesses that already are there and hopefully to attract some more businesses to come into downtown.”
Under Department of Commerce regulations, the city will have to budget $5,000 in local funds, but the state would in turn invest about $50,000 in on-site visits, training and technical assistance. The city must also designate someone to help manage downtown initiatives.
Council voted unanimously to apply for the program and would partner with the Whiteville Downtown Development Commission. The city has a municipal service district that taxes downtown properties to support revitalization efforts. The tax district would remain in place and part of the funds would be used to fund the salary of the economic development director.
Current part-time director Gene Merritt will retire June 30. The WDDC board will remain but in more of an advisory role.