03/11/05 — Areas surrounding downtown need study, DGDC chairman says

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Areas surrounding downtown need study, DGDC chairman says

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on March 11, 2005 1:54 PM

PINE KNOLL SHORES -- Rebuild the Paramount? Sure, only do it somewhere else, one Goldsboro resident said.

While she said she had wonderful memories of the theater, she had been afraid to go there for years, the woman wrote in a letter to city and county officials.

That is the challenge facing the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation, the organization's chairman, Jimmie Edmundson, told the City Council on Thursday during the council's annual retreat.

The Paramount Theater on Center Street, a downtown landmark, burned to the ground on Feb. 19.

Police statistics show that, from 2002 to 2004, downtown was the place in Goldsboro where you were least likely to be a crime victim, Edmundson said. It was the second-safest area from 1999 to 2001, he said.

The downtown area is attracting business investment, Edmundson said. It has gained 22 businesses in recent years and had more than $5.4 million in private investment in the past three years.

Yet, he said, many people tend to believe it's unsafe because of the rundown neighborhoods on the edge of the business district.

"If you really want downtown to be a vibrant area, a place where people come to shop, eat and spend time, you really have to do something about the area surrounding downtown," Edmundson told the council members.

The DGDC would like for the city to commission a plan for both the downtown and nearby streets. The estimated cost of the plan is around $90,000.

A master plan would give some direction as to how to restore or replace buildings. It would also qualify the city for some grant funds for redevelopment. At least one fund targets "brown field" sites, locations with residual pollution from past use.

The corporation would also like to see something done with deteriorating homes and businesses, Edmundson said. There have been some preliminary discussions of banks forming-fund that would buy buildings, repair them and sell them at cost.

Private individuals and businesses would be more likely to invest in downtown properties if they knew about an overall plan, he said.

The council did not commit to the master plan. They will likely discuss it this spring as they work on the city's 2005-06 budget.