The Clinton mayor and City Council members were officially recognized for their efforts in improving the downtown, to include the implementation of a freestanding art piece and a massive makeover of the old county jail site off Vance Street.
Clinton Mayor Lew Starling and the Clinton City Council were recognized as 2013 Main Street Champions at the North Carolina Main Street Annual Awards Ceremony in New Bern April 1. The City of Clinton was the winner in the category of Best Outdoor Space Improvement, receiving an Award of Merit for its Downtown Phase III, one of 17 such awards bestowed to winning projects.
“I’m pleased tonight to honor you,” Clitnon Main Street director Mary Rose said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “We would like to recognize you all this evening and present you with your certificate and your Main Street Champion award.”
City officials were not on hand at the April 1 meeting due to the regular Council meeting the same night, however Rose officially presented the award to Starling Tuesday.
“We’ve had a long-standing tradition with the Main Street partners for many years,” said Starling. “We’ve very pleased with (the award). Thank you very much for that.”
N.C. Main Street is a downtown revitalization program that provides technical assistance to small communities, based on economic development within the context of historic preservation. The Main Street Champion award acknowledges the extraordinary efforts of those persons who have played pivotal roles in the revitalization of their downtowns, with specific recognition to four focus areas of Main Street program: organization, design, economic restructuring and promotion.
Each of the state’s active Main Street programs is given the opportunity each year to recognize a local champion, which are then considered as part of the statewide awards.
In recommending the mayor and City Council, the Clinton Main Street Program lauded their support of all three phases of downtown Clinton’s revitalization projects. Rose shared that nomination with Council Tuesday.
From the 2002 Court Square Revitalization Project, winner of a 2003 North Carolina Main Street Award for Best Public Improvement, Rose noted, to the 2013 Clinton Phase III downtown revitalization project, which featured the community’s first public art installation, a 175 square-foot hand-painted glass wall entitled “Milling Around,” they have offered that support.
“Mayor Starling and the City Council recognized that public investment in downtown infrastructure generates private investment,” the Clinton Main Street statement read. That statement was read at the April 1 ceremony and relayed by Rose at this week’s meeting. “With the completion of each project phase, the return on that investment was realized as new businesses located in downtown and existing businesses undertook interior and exterior renovation work.”
Downtown revitalization projects over the past decade or more have changed the face of the downtown, with the third phase stretching from the base of Vance Street to the tip of College Street, encompassing Vance Street, the old jail site, and extending up to Connesstee Street, from College to Vance.
Utility and sidewalk work was completed on Connesstee, College and Vance, off which the existing parking lot was resurfaced and another, at the old jail site, added. The entire area received new brick sidewalks and a broken concrete wall along the College Street parking lot gave way to a stone veneer wall that now lines new sidewalks running up toward the heart of downtown. Similar walls were placed along Cattail Branch and Connesstee Street.
A small park area was integrated into the College Street lot, where green space was implemented and “Milling Around,” a nod to Sampson’s heritage that incorporated a millstone motif, was installed.
That public art was an idea developed by a grassroots public art committee, which underwent a thorough process from which Maryland-based artist Heidi Lippman was selected to design, fabricate and oversee the installation of the art. Nearly $140,000 was obtained from grants by the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as private donations, to full shoulder the full cost with no city funds used. The piece was dedicated in May 2012.
“The support exhibited by Mayor Lew Starling and the Clinton City Council has encouraged further support from downtown business and property owners as well as the citizens,” Rose said. “Clinton is indebted to these visionary leaders for their commitment to downtown.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.