Talk of Our Towns

The past year has presented a litany of challenges for our cities and towns. But, through those trials, we’ve been given a glimpse at the determination and dedication of our local leaders. Their resolve
was on full display.

On the League’s storytelling platform Here We Grow, and on the League’s social media channels over the last several months, we’ve been highlighting these stories. You’ll find snippets here.

The Town of Farmville finds itself thriving. New businesses, improved quality of life, and a robust arts scene—their situation is not due to luck, but rather is the steady payoff of a long-term strategy.

No single event or development defines Farmville’s current standing. Rather, it’s best viewed as a full picture, which reveals a series of prudent investments that play up the town’s priorities and create an ever-increasing quality of life.

“We’re building a town that’s desirable,” said City Manager David P. Hodgkins. “Growing, but not rapidly. A place where people of all ages want to live, where they can have fun, where they can shop and eat out. We want to be a pacesetter.”

In the Town of Rutherfordton, through partnerships with the Towns of Ruth, Spindale, and Forest City, along with Rutherford County, they have successfully worked to transition 13.58 miles of rail line into the Thermal Belt Rail Trail—a scenic thoroughfare lined with trees and stunning views of the foothills winding through historical sites and main street stopping points of interest. Following the footsteps of the railroading past and honoring the rich industrial history, the trail promotes wellness and supports economic prosperity. It has become a staple of the community, especially during pandemic times.

The City of Albemarle, investing in both infrastructure and human capital, also reveals the value of partnerships. Recently, Albemarle formed a partnership with Pfeiffer University to bring two newly established graduate programs to downtown. The result? The City was able to acquire the property Pfeiffer desired for the location of a new Health Science Building, which then became host to the school’s Occupational Therapy and Physicians Assistants programs. The newly constructed three-story complex opened to students this past September. It has benefitted downtown, benefitted local businesses, benefitted the university, and benefitted the city as a whole.

In the Town of Midway, investments in open spaces and recreational facilities have yielded significant results for the community. The most recent work began with a groundbreaking in June 2019. In the time since, Midway has completed walking trails and playground facilities, and many elements of the parks features are emerging and already being enjoyed by members of the community and guests.

The City of Hickory also invested in recreation through the Hickory Trail, a ten mile system of multi-modal pathways that provides connectivity throughout town and offers opportunities for development. Taking advantage of that opportunity is One North Center, a $19,000,000, six-story, mixed-use apartment construction project. This new addition to Downtown Hickory sits on the City Walk, a segment of the Hickory Trail that connects Lenoir-Rhyne University to Downtown Union Square and is slated to open in early 2021. Despite the trials of 2020, these projects have either progressed or completed, ensuring that the community emerges from the pandemic to find a bright, bustling hometown.

Few places honor their history quite as well as the towns of North Carolina. Look no further than the Town of Cooleemee, one of the state’s famous former mill towns. This past year, Cooleemee relocated its Town Hall to the Zachary House, a historic, town-owned building that was once a former residence of a Cooleemee Cotton Mill company manager. Through this effort, they are better serving citizens while also showcasing a prominent historical building.

Through the many challenges presented in 2020, the City of Kings Mountain emerged as a top tier city, not just in North Carolina, but nationwide. In fact, according to one outlet, there is no healthier housing market in the entire United States. Add to that the exciting promise brought about by its recent Main Street accreditation, and there is much to be excited about in Kings Mountain.

The Town of Rolesville touts an energetic community. It needed its Town Hall to reflect that. Small, closed-off, and in need of an update, Rolesville got to work on the space at the start of COVID-19 pandemic. With extra health and safety practices imposed, the Town Hall employees and contractors worked together to complete the project in a timely fashion. In addition, the project was modified to accommodate new best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing employee and customer safety. The lobby is now open, secure, transparent and inviting to the public. Best of all, it now represents the community it serves.

In the Town of Ocean Isle Beach, a collaborative project led to a new, beautiful park. An effort of the Board of Commissioners, Town Staff, Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and donors, this space includes an outdoor performance stage, playground, promenade with personalized engraved bricks, interactive fountain/splash pad, bocce courts, and more. Plus, it will be home to the Summer Concert Series as well as numerous other community activities and festivals.

The Town of Coats has also been targeted and successful in its beautification efforts, most recently by partnering with artists to turn a basic parking pad into a creative space. There’s a similar story in the Town of Wendell, which unveiled East Campen Row, a downtown alleyway converted into a muralled downtown parking and event space. And in the City of Laurinburg, the city took unused, dilapidated property and rehabbed it into downtown parking. What was blight became a safe, well-lit, and widely used place for citizens to park, gather and charge electric vehicles. Plans are in place, too, to convert this area soon to greenspace. The massive projects are eye-catching and exciting. More often, though, it’s the small, incremental projects that make a city what it is. By targeting an area of need and quickly improving it, Laurinburg has made one of many small steps forward.

There are then the large-scale projects. In recent years, the Town of Surf City replaced its iconic ‘swing bridge’ with a much-needed upgrade. The ‘swing bridge’ is a piece of Surf City history. The new bridge, though, brings the town into the future, and is a critical project for Surf City’s development strategy. It opened up true pedestrian use and connectivity, and enhanced town service operations, like police, fire, and emergency response. The increased traffic has provided economic development opportunities, and the infrastructure, as a whole, has furthered the strategy for additional bike/pedestrian planning as the town grows.

The City of Greenville recently completed the largest infrastructure project in the history of the city: the Town Creek Culvert project. The $33 million project was an undertaking to address drainage issues for about 300 acres of the City’s Uptown District and adjacent areas. The City began the study and design phase of the project in 2013, and the project began in 2018. It includes many green infrastructure components, and was funded by the City’s Storm Water Utility Fund and a combination of other financing sources. As leaders note, this one was “on time and under budget.”