09/01/10 — Council OKs first round of Streetscape

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Council OKs first round of Streetscape

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 1, 2010 1:46 PM

Only a few weeks after several members of the Goldsboro City Council expressed concern over the proposed use of street bond money to revamp the 200 block of North Center Street, those same officials -- Bob Waller and Jackie Warrick -- voted against a motion made during a Monday afternoon work session to move forward with construction drawings and put the project out for bid.

But by the time the vote was said and done, downtown advocates had a reason to celebrate -- the motion, despite the two "no" votes and an abstention from council member Michael Headen, was approved.

And Mayor Al King said the decision to move forward with redesigning the streetscapes downtown was the right one, that it is the best use of the roughly $1 million in street bond funds still available in city coffers.

"The money could have done a lot of things, but it wasn't earmarked for streets," he said. "And we could fill a lot of potholes ... but that doesn't add to our tax base. So I think we are going to get the most bang for our buck by using it this way."

And by the end of January -- bids are expected to be in by early 2011 and ready for review -- just whether or not that money will be used to begin what has been characterized as a "complete revision of the streetscape" will be determined by another vote.

Urban designer Allison Platt said the project calls for a throwback to the way Center Street once looked -- 18-foot sidewalks, underground utilities, a "walkable median," more open, green space and the elimination of the holly trees that run down the middle of the street.

And while the proposition initially met some resistance from business owners -- some said they feared losing business during construction and others were worried about the potential loss of parking -- Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. executive director Julie Thompson said the vision approved Monday represented a solid compromise.

"I think at the end of the day, we were able to come up with a design that met most of the concerns," she said. "Everybody is always a little nervous about change ... but I must say, I completely feel like this is the best way to keep us moving forward."

King agreed.

"I am committed, absolutely committed to revitalizing downtown, and the streetscape is tremendously important to making a significant change," he said. "So I'm a big supporter of it. I feel it is our future."

Not every council member is so convinced.

Warrick and Waller, while supportive in theory, Mrs. Thompson said, maintained the position they held during the council's Aug. 16 meeting -- Warrick said he would not vote for spending bond money on the project and Waller said he is concerned with "tearing up" the streets and sidewalks on the 200 block of North Center without being knowing how and when the city would "finish the rest of it."