(Editorâ€™s note: This article originally ran Feb. 23. However, it was inadvertently cut off, thus incomplete, which is why the LTN is re-running it.)
Amidst a backdrop of rumbling truck engines, police and fire sirens and simple everyday traffic rolling down the main thoroughfare, another bold declaration in the belief of downtown Lincolntonâ€™s strength was made when officials from First Charter Bank deeded over to LEDA (Lincoln Economic Development Association) the property where once set the bankâ€™s drive-through/ATM, 502 E. Main St.
What separates the transfer of deed from being just another ordinary transaction is the property â€” estimated value over $150,000 â€” has been donated to LEDA, which will construct a new, expansive headquarter on the site. Itâ€™s the latest act by civic and business leaders in the confidence they have in downtown Lincolnton.
â€œAs a community bank, we know we canâ€™t be a strong, vibrant bank unless weâ€™re in a strong vibrant community that has a strong, vibrant economy,â€ said Robert E. â€œBobâ€ James Jr., president and CEO of First Charter Bank. â€œWhat better place to be than in the middle of â€˜uptownâ€™ Lincolnton.â€ He added he preferred â€œuptownâ€ as versus â€œdowntownâ€ because up symbolizes growth and a positive attitude.
It was a feeling expressed time and again by the other guest speakers, who included such luminaries as County Commissioner chairman Tom Anderson, Lincolnton mayor Bobby Huitt, and Junior Howard, chairman of LEDA.
â€œThis is an exciting opportunity for LEDA to be able to better serve Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton,â€ stated Howard in a recent news release. â€œWe are very thankful and appreciative to First Charter for their commitment to economic development in the city and county.â€
Micah Lee, senior vice president and city executive with the bank mirrored that thought.
â€œWe are very excited to be able to provide LEDA with the land for the new LEDA headquarters,â€ he stated in the same news release. â€œThe Main Street location is ideal for this new visual gateway to downtown Lincolnton.
That opinion was also voiced by LEDAâ€™s executive director, Barry Matherly.
â€œWe feel very strong about downtown,â€ said Matherly. â€œThis will allow us to move to the present and the future.â€
He added LEDAâ€™s philosophy differentiates it from other similar organizations in neighboring communities, which have moved their base of operations to locations closer to interstate highway exchanges.
First Charterâ€™s president and CEO of First Charter summarized the bankâ€™s decision to donate the property rather than sell it once construction of the new bank was completed on the neighboring piece of property which one time was the site of a supermarket.
â€œWe knew this was going to be excess property. The options were to put it on the market and sell it,â€ said James. â€œWe thought the better use would be to give it to LEDA. This would be a good marriage.â€
Consequently, the bank approached LEDA, which had been scouting for a new location, having long ago outgrown its current facility on Congress Street. One of the sites was 502 E. Main St., which had been identified in a building study undertaken by LEDA member Mitch Miller, who was an intern at the time.
It was determined 502 E. Main St. is where LEDA wanted to be. As a result, Bo King and Bud Warlick, board members of LEDA approached bank officials and informed dialogues were undertaken and an agreement was reached.
â€œWhen we officially asked, â€˜How much?â€™ thatâ€™s when they came back with the proposal,â€ said Matherly.
by Steve Steiner