An organized nonprofit group of citizens and community leaders would be the driving force behind rejuvenating the town of Pulaski under a Redevelopment and Renewal Plan unveiled Monday evening at Pulaski Train Station.
North Carolina architect David Gall prepared the plan, which he presented to members of Pulaski Town Council and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, as well as citizens and other community leaders who came out for the special meeting.
Although the plan focuses on redevelopment of the area of First Street northeast and northwest from Jefferson Avenue to the iron railroad trestle crossing Peak Creek, Gall said a goal of the plan is to create an atmosphere that will spark growth outside the target area, as well.
But Gall stressed the importance of local leaders and citizens believing the proposed changes can be accomplished for the plan to be successful.
“There should not be any naysayers about this community’s ability to get something done,” he said, noting that during the November meetings, “we found the citizens of this community to be thoughtful, visionary, resourceful and caring about each other and the place where they live.
“This can be done,” he added.
Gall said the plan was “mostly developed from listening to the community” during a series of citizen meetings held in November. However, his 35 years of experience in architecture and historic redevelopment also was a factor in its creation.
He called the plan a “local plan that is intended to support private sector growth and development with leadership from citizens in the community” and noted there is nothing in the plan that can’t be accomplished on the local level and under the guidance of a “nonprofit renewal advocacy group” he called “Pulaski Champions.”
The project would be funded through fundraising by Pulaski Champions, accessing state and federal grant monies and through private investments. Since the Champions group would be nonprofit, a 501c25 holding company would allow the group to hold title to properties and a “for-profit” Venture Capital Fund corporation of investors should be formed.
Goals of the Renewal Plan are to:
•Create a “developer-friendly” plan that will serve as a guide for economic development in the target area that will increase the community’s tax base.
•Reflect the community’s vision, ideas and concerns stated at the community meetings.
•Develop a broad based, citizen-led effort that will spark ideas, excitement and hard work in the community that will reinforce a positive self-image for the community.
•Reinforce and take advantage of natural and manmade infrastructure in the target area. He noted that all of the privately owned buildings in the target area are part of the town’s National Historic District and, as such, are eligible for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.
•Focus on elements that support the life and health of the community first, and tourism as a secondary outcome. and
•Respect the historic character of the target area while encouraging rehabilitation through tax credits and other incentives.
Gall said the community will know the project was a success when there are positive physical results that increase the tax base and vitality of the area; the community’s health, welfare and self-image are improved; the community takes pride in its accomplishments, and the accomplishments support other positive growth outside the target area.
To guide the overseeing group, Pulaski Champions, through the process, Gall said, the plan “presents a sequenced series of steps for development of specific buildings, vacant land and Peak Creek, that, if even partly completed, will constitute a major stimulus for growth, jobs, historic preservation and renewal in the target area.”
The first, and one of the most important, of the 13 steps in the phased development plan, he said, is affirmation of the Renewal Plan by the two governing boards: Pulaski Town Council and the Board of Supervisors.
Step two would be to acquire the former General Chemical Foundry building at 99 First St. NE. Gall said it is important this building be acquired as soon as possible due to its fast deteriorating condition. Besides being an important anchor for the target area, he said “the historic and architectural character of the building is significant and the rehabilitation and repurposing of the structure would be a valuable enterprise.”
Gall said he understands there are concerns about the condition of the now condemned building among town officials, but he reminded those attending the presentation that the building they were gathered in (the rebuilt train station) was in much worse condition than the foundry building and it was saved.
The third step would be to organize Pulaski Champions and hold an organizational meeting. He suggested the group be composed of “valued leaders” of broad interests and talents, such as an attorney, downtown property owner or owners, a member of town and county staffs, an accountant, a member of the downtown clergy, a member of the town council and board of supervisors, someone with experience in historic commercial real estate and eight or more “citizens-at-large.”
In order for the project to succeed and meet its goals he said the community’s citizens must believe in and support the plan. Therefore, Gall said, the members of Pulaski Champions must be “well respected, generous of their time, wise, and have a personal character that encourages others to follow them forward. They must be champions for their community.”
The remaining steps are as follows:
4) Acquire the Dalton Building, which has a willing seller and is in “remarkably good condition” for its age, Gall said. He noted the building “lends itself to a variety of uses” such as a restaurant on the ground floor with a possible over-the-creek balcony for dining, overnight accommodations on the upper floors and some other use in the basement.
5) Create two design competitions for the aquatic and wellness center and for both sides of First Street Northeast from Washington Avenue to the iron bridge to solicit ideas from design teams. Gall said the acquatic center is crucial to the plan as a whole because it will bring people into town, thus creating support for other economic growth. Gall says the aquatic and wellness center will provide the incentive needed to draw outside developers to invest in the town.
6) Acquire the McCarthy Building next to the foundry building to allow for future development along the south side of Peak Creek, such as creation of a “Peak Creek Loop” walking path and an outdoor theatre behind the Dalton Building, in the footprint of the old Dalton Theatre. This step also calls for the beginning of upgrades and repairs to the Peak Creek Walls, which Gall suggests be added to the National Register Historic District for Pulaski to open access to tax credits.
7) Acquire properties at 72 and 92 First St. NE, which will be the site of the proposed aquatic and wellness center.
8) Acquire 68 First St. NW, known as the Dunnivant Building, next to Pulaski Municipal Building. Gall said its open floor plan would support multiple uses.
9) Acquire five structures on the south side of First Street NE and offer for development under a single deed. Gall also suggested this step include development of a jogging trail around Jackson Park to supplement the wellness center.
10) Encourage development of the structure on the northeast corner of Washington and First Street NE as a coffee and sandwich shop to serve the new development in the target area.
11) Encourage redevelopment of the Virginia Wood Products Building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and First Street NW for mixed commercial and residential use.
12) Obtain easements to expand Peak Creek Loop around the portion of Peak Creek between Washington and Jefferson avenues.
13) Establish fiber optic and wireless Internet service throughout downtown to support the new development.
Gall pointed out the importance of saving historic buildings in the downtown area, saying they are what make the community unique. He also stressed how important it is that the walls of Peak Creek be repaired and maintained because “Peak Creek is a wonderful asset to the community.”
Finally, Gall said it is important that current building owners understand the goal of the plan is not to push them out, but rather to invite them to participate in the renewal. He said the plan can be implemented through a variety of financial strategies including, the current property owner as the developer; the current property owner and a third-party developer working as a team; the current property owner as a passive partner with a third-party developer; a developer as the first-party development director; Pulaski Champions as active or passive participant in development, or any other method that will meet the goal of the Renewal Plan.
Plans call for the full report to be available on the town and county websites (www.pulaskitown.org and www.pulaskicounty.org) at a future date.