11/11/12 — Streetscape done, Center Street finally open

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Streetscape done, Center Street finally open

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 11, 2012 1:50 AM

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A new sign sits at the entrance of downtown Goldsboro, as workers put the finishing touches on the Streetscape project early Friday morning.

Center Street opened to traffic Friday as work on Goldsboro's signature downtown revitalization project ended after six months of renovations to the city's main downtown street.

The project, which widened sidewalks, created a median pathway and installed shade trees, represents the first phase of the Center Street Streetscape project, which is expected to eventually span the length of Center Street from Ash Street southward.

The digging up of the street also allowed for repairs to the downtown infrastructure, which hadn't been addressed since much of it was installed nearly a century ago.

But the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. also championed the project as an economic investment into the city's center, saying that a renovated Center Street would spur business development in the area.

City officials said the construction was directly linked to at least two business' decisions to invest on Center Street.

Mary Ellen McInnis, owner and operator of Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe, seemed to indicate the Streetscape project was at least part of her reason for relocating from Royall Avenue to the newly renovated block of Center Street.

She said she had wanted to come downtown since she opened, and her new location was quadruple the size of her former store.

"We outgrew that," she said.

She asked her customers if they would follow her downtown and most said they would, so she, her husband and a friend began to look for a new home, starting at the DGDC office where she learned of the properties available downtown, grant opportunities and the city's plans for Center Street.

"I was really impressed with that," she said of the design plans for the 200 block of North Center Street. "I thought it was very well thought out."

But now she's even more impressed by the work now that it's finished.

"It's better than I thought. I love the sidewalk," she said.

A few blocks south, another entrepreneur is just as fond of the project, although the renovations haven't yet reached his storefront.

Antonio Williams of The Ice Storm across from the Paramount Theatre has been down at the construction site every day since work began, reporting to his colleague how many trucks are down there, where the workers are laying bricks.

Williams used to be in construction, but his interest goes deeper than just watching the work -- he wants to see downtown grow.

"If you want to see something blossom, this is where it starts," he said, citing examples across the country of downtown investment spawning private sector growth.

He was at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Goldsboro City Council, asking that the project's next phase, slated to begin in 2014, be expedited as Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen had suggested in October.

Council members decided to wait until the public saw the results of the first phase before discussing moving the project up the city's list of priorities.

The block's grand opening will be Nov. 20 during the Downtown Lights Up! event, which will run from 5 to 7 p.m.