DDA opposes county offices move
At our previous DDA board meeting it was unanimously decided that we wanted to make a public statement on our feelings about the county offices moving out of downtown.
Three or so years ago this was an extremely hot topic with the DDA, it consumed our monthly meetings and our committee meetings, we along with (former City of Lincolnton Business and Community Development director) Brad (Guth) put in countless hours trying to find a way to get the county to see what a mistake it was to take the county offices out of downtown. We interviewed other towns like Newton, Durham, Salisbury, Morganton, Greenville, etc. that had the same problem and they had either experienced the problem and the ghost town effects or were able to convince the county to reinvest in their downtown and the dramatic impact it made was substantial. Morganton’s county offices moved out of downtown and they up fitted a building downtown just to get them back.
Each of those places encouraged us to make sure we took a stand and changed the county’s mind. So we set out to do just that… We looked into market studies, got statistics from the county on patrons downtown, engaged a builder for an alternate idea and had a group of concerned business owners that were prepared to go to bat. We found out from the rough stats from the county that there were approximately 5,000 citizens per month that came downtown to use public services not including the employees that would normally be downtown each day. We also found out at that time the county could build a new building on a vacant lot that they own for significantly less than what they had planned to spend in the old hospital and at that time they didn’t need the entire hospital for space so some of it would be wasted space. We met with the county manager at the time, George Wood, on several occasions, he was even on our board. He quieted the issue by stating that it was something that wasn’t happening any time soon 5-6 years and that there was plenty of time to figure out alternatives. We took that to heart and as our cries for alternates fell on deaf ears we let things die down and changed our focus to being proactive in building up our downtown.
Our opinions have not changed. We still want to encourage the county to look at alternatives and we support the efforts of the group of concerned citizens under the name of “Citizens For Smart Spending.” We also want to encourage the City of Lincolnton to explore ideas for alternatives to offer the county. We understand this is a huge decision and that the county has worked very hard on this but we do want to reiterate this isn’t something we are just now trying to change, we have tried encouraging alternatives for a few years. However, no matter what the outcome is, the DDA is continuing to move forward in assisting and attracting new retail, restaurants and residential living spaces. With two potential residential apartment projects and another potential restaurant coming to town we are focusing our efforts on progression and development.
Brooke M. Sherrill
Downtown Development Association Board Chair