David Perry can remember when downtown Goldsboro was like many other downtowns across the state -- little activity, few businesses, waning investment.
But he's watched from the sidelines as development in downtown Goldsboro was first jumpstarted by local government, with the investment to build a new City Hall annex and improve the look of the first block of Center Street.
The past few years have signaled a resurgence in downtown investments, with new businesses opening regularly, new apartments being added to downtown's housing stock and continued government investment, including federal grants.
The completion of the $15 million local and federally funded streetscape project along Center Street, in 2016, has served as the catalyst to downtown revitalization.
More and more people are making downtown a destination by visiting stores, stopping by restaurants, strolling along Center Street and taking in a little nightlife.
"Generally, I think, people located their business downtown 10, 15 years ago for one of two reasons," said Julie Metz, Goldsboro's downtown development director. "They felt nostalgic about downtown and it was cheap. Now, they're moving downtown because it's vibrant, growing and an exciting place to be."
Perry, the president of Perry Real Estate and Goldsboro Builders Supply, sees the potential in entering the downtown market by developing two properties, a two-story commercial and residential property on Center Street and the former Goldsboro Fire Station on Ash Street.
His goal is twofold -- getting a jump on the market and helping improve the quality of life in his hometown.
"I see the emergence of downtown, and I see we're right on the verge of this thing really taking off," he said. "The tide is just rising, and I feel that now is a great time to get in there.
By developing the two properties, Perry will add new apartments and two businesses, including a drugstore, on Center Street. The fire station is in the process of being converted into a future CrossFit, on the ground level, and an event center, photography studio and office site on the second floor.
By adding a variety of businesses, Perry not only hopes to stimulate the local economy but also create new opportunities to attract younger residents.
"I wanted to do something positive for Goldsboro," Perry said. "I just felt like it was an opportunity for me to give back to the community a little bit because this is where I grew up, and this is my home.
"In order for young people to come to Goldsboro, we have to have two things. You've got to have a job and you've got to have a good quality of life.
"So it's a good investment, plus it helps Goldsboro. Hopefully, it will encourage people to consider living here, moving here."
The renovations to both properties have involved following historical guidelines in preserving the historical integrity of the buildings.
GOLDSBORO FIRE STATION
The two-story fire station, which was in operation from 1939 to 1972, will retain much of the look and feel of its original construction, by maintaining the fire tower, after an elevator is installed, retaining interior brick walls and keeping four fire poles in place.
The near 11,000-square-foot building, at 109 E. Ash St., will have a new CrossFit gym, CrossFit BOHICA (building our health in committed action) on the back half of the first floor. Bear Fox Studio will be located on the second floor with space for a 275-person capacity historic event, meeting and wedding center, with the added use of an outdoor deck. The second floor will also be used as a collaborative office area and a photography studio.
A 1,500-square-foot, partially covered outdoor deck will be an added bonus, with a bird's-eye view of the 1953 model F-86H Sabre Fighter Jet on display, at the Ash Street roundabout, and a view of Center Street, Perry said.
"The view of downtown and especially the lighted jet plane on the pedestal at the end of Center Street will be phenomenal," he said.
An area at the back of the building will be designed for outdoor bocci ball, corn hole and pingpong games, with a fire pit and area for live music.
Work has already started on the addition of a new parking lot at the side of the building. A section of the property, alongside John Street, is planned for future development where another building could eventually be added.
Each of the businesses will have its own entrance door, and the old fire station building is expected to open in October, Perry said.
On Center Street, work is taking place to convert what once was a Goldsboro hospital into a first-floor drugstore, the Downtown Pharmacy, and a separate wine design, art and antique studio, the Mulberry Marketplace, which will be accessible from Mulberry Street.
The 151 N. Center St. building will also include The Mulberry, where four historic, two-bedroom apartments are under construction on the second floor. The apartments will have open ceilings with reclaimed wood, exposed brick, plank flooring, designer cabinets, ceramic-tiled bathroom floors and intricate time-stamped millwork.
"Being on the corner, they have lots of oversized windows with incredible views of the downtown streetscape project," Perry said.
The Mulberry is expected to be fully leased when it opens in April. The downtown businesses have not set opening dates but could be in operation as early as May.
The Center Street building is planned to have a sign signifying the history of the building as Goldsboro's first hospital, circa 1896.
"In summary, we feel our projects will be a prudent investment, will provide jobs, enhance the quality of life in Goldsboro and help make downtown Goldsboro a destination," Perry said.
The success of his first two projects could lead to more in the future, he said.
"If this does as well as I think it will, and, of course, I hope it does, I'll do some more," he said. "Once I've determined this is all good, I'll probably do some more."
During the past several years, dozens of properties in the downtown area have been purchased and rehabilitated, new businesses have opened, and apartments continue to be added.
Nearly $5 million in private investment was made in the downtown district during the last year on record, which ended June 2017. During the year, 19 businesses opened, 19 rehabilitation projects were completed, and nearly 80 jobs were created.