06/01/11 — Six million dollars would allow full downtown renovation

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Six million dollars would allow full downtown renovation

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on June 1, 2011 10:22 PM

Although plans are already in place for the city to revamp the 200 block of Center Street, the City Council moved Tuesday to try to acquire enough funding to begin construction on the entire streetscape project at once to expedite the process.

Following a presentation on a federal grant program that would fund the project along with Goldsboro Union Station's renovations from Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson, the council voted 4-1 to approve the pursuit of the grants through the submission of applications for both projects for $6 million each.

The grant program, run by the Federal Highway Administration, contains the reintroduction of the Transportation, Community and Systems Preservation Program, which allows for $61 million to be provided for projects across the country. The TCSP grant has not been offered since 2009.

Geoff Hulse, the president of DGDC, spoke to the benefits of doing the project all at once during the public hearing.

"It's beneficial to do Center Street all at once," he said. "If we do it one block at a time, it's more disruptive."

Ms. Thompson explained that, because the street's maintenance was not state or federally funded, this was the only manner by which the street renovations could occur at subsidized cost for the city. The city's match on the $6 million, if awarded, would be 20 percent or $1.2 million.

Six blocks of Center Street from Ash to Elm streets would undergo the renovations, which would alter the angle parking system on the street and widen the sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety, she said. Restaurants would then have space on the sidewalks to offer outdoor seating. The 200 block of Center was already approved for the project and the city expects to put out for bids for the renovations early this month.

But Mitchell Silver, Raleigh's city planner who has been cited by Mayor Al King as being an expert on city growth, said last week that if the city's plan is only to make the street "pretty", that won't be enough to draw businesses downtown.

"It's the experience that you're creating. Appearance alone won't do it. I'm hoping Goldsboro will think about what it will do with its downtown," he said, noting that it must decide if the space will be for dining, entertainment, young people or tourists. "What experience are (visitors) gonna get? People go to places because of the experience, not just because it looks nice."

Silver, who worked in Raleigh during its Fayetteville and Hillsborough Street renovations, said getting rid of the angled parking and expanding the center island were key to creating an appropriate sense of space for the city, and encouraged the development of residential housing above commercial properties throughout downtown.

District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick, the only council member to vote against the measure to approve two grant applications, said he took issue with the Center Street renovations when they were first brought up and wasn't changing his mind now, especially since the city plans to take out a loan to pay its match. He said he approves of the Union Station project and may have voted differently if the two initiatives were voted on separately, but he's still concerned about the city's debt.

The deadline for applications is June 3 and city officials said they hoped they would know the results of the call for applications by the end of the summer.