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Plan stresses citizen-led renewal: Anchor of downtown Pulaski renewal would be aquatic and wellness center

Rice Building-webBy MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

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.

Posted on May 15, 2013

Comments

comments

12 Responses to Plan stresses citizen-led renewal: Anchor of downtown Pulaski renewal would be aquatic and wellness center

  1. Chasity Marshall

    May 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Lets break ground and get this all started. It all sounds good and promising. We need new changes in the town and if this is a go I will support it. This plan can bring in the revenue this town needs and also gives the community something to do. I pay enough in town taxes and would love to see something new in the town. Im tired of paying taxes to see old run down building sitting in spots that new development could be growing in. If changes don’t a cure our town will continue to turn into old builds and become more of the ghost town that it is starting to become!!!!!!

  2. also concerned

    May 16, 2013 at 5:50 am

    All I can say is when can we get started???? This plan echoes what many of the citizens have said for years, but until just now, no one seemed to get excited about the ideas.

  3. Carolyn

    May 16, 2013 at 10:50 am

    This is the best plan I have heard for redeveloping Pulaski. Citizens in the town and county should support Mr.Gall in his endeavors. The town needs to look ahead in development and get the ball rolling. There has been enough talk and outside consultants, lets get started.

  4. anoutsiderlooking in

    May 16, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Ms. Marshall, how many studies and how much money has been spent on these efforts in the past? With no results. Small town America has gone forever. I truly believe in keeing the old buildings and using them. But why did they build a new building for the model train display when the old foundry mentioned in the article would have been a perfect place right next to the railroad? I believe the Dalton bldg. was offered for sale at a very low price with no takers, however, now that it is under consideration for this new proposal, the cost to acquire will skyrocket. I do not see any of the efforts mentioned in the report as being able to draw business into this area of town. Perhaps if tax subsidized to cover the losses yes, but then who pays for this? The rest of the citizens in the town pay. An outdoor theater behind the Dalton Bldg…an outdoor eating establishing with balcony overlooking Peak Creek? Give me a break! Mr. Gall’s plans are ‘pie in sky’ dreams and perhaps would work for a town/city of 40,000 or more. Winchester, VA for example has taken several blocks of the old downtown area, no cars allowed, bricked the streets and it is always full of people shopping and using the food establishments, especially in the warmer months. Don;t get me wrong, I would love to see downtown Pulaski as it used to be with all the buildings on Main street open with business’s. The Theater project was a wonderful idea and it brings a few people in once or twice a month. It would be nice to have nice place to eat in the same area, however, a business cannot exist on just several days a month. I am afraid all of this is going to cost a lot of money, effort with little or no long term results.I also wonder what Mr. Gall was paid and who paid? The taxpayers???

    • Chasity Marshall

      June 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      I do understand what you are saying and yes I have heard several plans in the past for our town that has never been implemented. Its heart breaking to live in a community that there is nothing to do with your families. The train station renovations and the new museum are nice but once you have seen it you have seen it. The theater is great as well and I agree it does bring people to town once or twice a month, but my kids are not interested in seeing impersonators from the older times. This town has so much to offer but seems to be stuck in the 50′s and 60′s.We need new diners,family centers,movie theaters that plays up to date movies,events that come into the area that involves all ages not just the elderly in the community. Kids do not want to live in the past when the future has so much to offer. I do hope the aquatic center does open its something this town has needed for a very long time. Btw I do pay town taxes but for what to see old building rotting away when they should have been torn down years ago.We need new in this town and I know there is always a price from our pocket to see change.

  5. Stephanie

    May 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    When do they start? There are just a few things in Pulaski for families to do. This would be a great thing. It’s a great idea hope they stick with it. All we have is grocery stores, pharmacies, bank and run down buildings. There is so much they could do for this town but nobody seemed to care till now.

  6. Proud resident

    May 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

    What a great plan and terrific news! Personally, I’m tired of certain “people” criticizing our quaint town. Citizens should rally and support Mr. Gall and the Pulaski Champions. Let’s make our town a better place to live and have it’s residents be proud of their community. We should encourage our Board of Supervisors and Town Council to use our tax dollars wisely for this great endeavor. Go Pulaski, this is exciting!

  7. Anon 1

    May 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I think that this is a great idea if it happens!! I can’t help but be a little concerned that this will turn out like the old Cosmo’s did. There is really nothing to do in Pulaski with your children. We need something here for the Community. Lets get this started already!!

  8. also concerned

    May 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Several years ago, a group in town came up with many of these same ideas(for free I might add) but
    were not taken seriously. The same buildings that he suggested acquiring were the same ones proposed
    previously. Our issue is this, we need to have people with money to come and start these projects or I am afraid that once again, they will languish until they pay someone else a gazillion dollars to tell them the same thing again. I would absolutely love to see these plans implemented but I am afraid
    that they will wind up waiting on invisible funding.

  9. Andrew Cocke

    May 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    The biggest thing about this that delights me, is for the first time in a long time there is talk about doing something real in the downtown area of Pulaski, (not the county space between Pulaski and Dublin, the Volvo area). The attractions in the Volvo area may be good for those in the county, Dublin, or anyone in Pulaski who has transportation, but Pulaski town’s citizens need more attractions within walking distance. A lot of Pulaski’s citizens are pedestrians.

    I do share some of “anoutsiderlookingin”‘s concerns. This does seem to good to be true, and rather like a pipe dream.

    But I will share in the enthusiasm. And if there is anything I can do to help, count me in.

    Whether is this really do-able or not, it’s just nice to see someone take some initiative, and not bellyache about everything we don’t have.

  10. Closer to the Truth

    May 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    An interesting detail that the ‘times left out: Allied Chemical is still a superfund site. You can find it on the EPA’s website. How is that being addressed? Is this just a scheme to sell a worthless piece of land to the taxpayers at top dollar?

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