The city of Goldsboro hosted two public input meetings to discuss updates to the third phase of the Center Street Streetscape project on Monday.

Residents had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the designs available for the project, as well as ask questions and voice any concerns during the meeting.

"... It might be a little different from what we had imagined a year and a half ago, so we just really wanted to have this time to touch base with (the public) and let you see what direction we're going ..." said Julie Metz, Goldsboro downtown development director, during the afternoon session.

The Center Street Streetscape project is an ongoing development plan to revitalize downtown Goldsboro. It is funded through a $5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, TIGER, grant and a $1.7 million match in city funds, which city leaders are on track to meet.

At this time, the city is exploring its options on how best to redevelop the Cornerstone Commons, as well as make street improvements along Center Street, from Spruce to Elm streets.

Development plans include the public commons area at the intersection of Center and Chestnut streets, near the city police and fire stations.

The city is still in the development designing process, which will last through October. Approval for the new designs will begin in November, with construction slated to begin in December and continue through May 2020.

City leaders wanted to offer public meetings on the project so they could clear up any questions and concerns the public may have regarding the development of Center Street and the Cornerstone Commons.

Questions regarding the Freedom Tree, located in the Center Street median near Spruce Street, were brought up by some concerned citizens.

"The public had gotten ahead of us, saying that we were going to tear down the tree, and we wanted to do this and show, hey, there are options," Metz said.

There are three options the city can take in redeveloping the area around the Freedom Tree according to Metz: removing the tree, doing nothing with the tree or building around the tree. The tree was planted by former Goldsboro Mayor Tommy Gibson in 1973 to honor Capt. Patrick Cleary, an Air Force fighter pilot who served in Vietnam. For many years, Cleary was reported as missing in action after his F-4 Phantom went down. His remains were found later in 2002 and the town rededicated the tree in 2011.

Metz said that the Goldsboro City Council does not want to remove the tree at this time and they are exploring their options on how to redevelop the area around the tree. If the city went with the third option, there would potentially be a three-quarter roundabout around the tree. The tree is currently located in an area that is well protected and is not expected to sustain any damages from construction.

"I can't guarantee that it wouldn't impact the tree, but I can promise you that if we go this direction, we will do everything we can to make sure it doesn't negatively impact it," Metz said.

Questions regarding the splash park for kids and the plaques at Cornerstone Commons were also discussed during the forum.

"The splash park has not been taken out," Metz said. "That splash park is still in question. Right now, I suspect that (after) showing it to our senior level staff, it might need a little bit of a bigger presence," Metz said. "We're calling it a misting station for bicyclists, and we're hoping that it can be both -- a misting station and a splash pad for kids."

According to Metz, the city is exploring options on how to best remove the plaques and give them to the recipients. The awards would then be reincorporated into a wall at the commons with the name of the award, the description and the names of the recipients.

The city is also discussing other visual design elements they can incorporate in the redevelopment.

"One of the concepts we're trying to consider is some type of visual nod that the tracks used to go up Center Street," Metz said. "What that is -- whether it is lighting or some type of designing element -- we're not really sure yet."

The city held two public input and update meetings for the project on Monday, at noon and 5:30 p.m., in the conference room of the City Hall annex on Center Street.