City revitalization project takes first symbolic step

May 19, 2011


Martinsville held a symbolic groundbreaking — in which no ground was broken — on Wednesday to launch Phase I of the uptown revitalization project.

The city has received about $1.7 million in funds and in-kind contributions from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, The Harvest Foundation and other sources to use toward the first phase of the central business district’s revitalization.

Those efforts got under way Wednesday afternoon with the ceremony at the corner of Moss, Church and Main streets.

About 50 people watched as Martinsville Director of Community Development Wayne Knox and city Community Planner Susan McCulloch put on hard hats. Knox got behind a jackhammer as McCulloch climbed into the cab of a backhoe. They did not start the equipment because, McCulloch said, it was intended to be a symbolic ceremony.

Knox said the first phase will include improvements to the appearances of buildings and parking lots, the installation of new landscaping and signs, and repairs to curbs and gutters in the area surrounding Market, Church, Jones and Lester streets and the former courthouse.

The ceremony was held on a vacant site, across from the former High Point Furniture Outlet building, where another building was demolished many years ago. Much of the site remains covered with cement and brick tiles from that building’s floor, but many of the tiles now are cracked. Gravel and shards of broken glass also are strewn at the site.

“This certainly is a corner that needs some attention” under revitalization efforts, city Councilman Mark Stroud said as he looked around.

It will undergo improvements, but plans are still in the works, McCulloch said.

“That’s the area with the biggest blight,” which is why the decision was made to hold the ceremony there, she said.

A master plan for revitalization targets 23 structures for facade upgrades. McCulloch said about a dozen property owners who together own about 20 properties have voiced their desire to be part of the project.

Knox said other property owners who are interested in their buildings being upgraded can call him at 403-5169 or McCulloch at 403-5156.

Ideas from the public were used to develop the master plan, and input into improvements still is welcome, Knox said.

Architects and other consultants will help property owners decide how to upgrade their structures, officials said.

Owners will be responsible for paying part of the cost of improvements to their properties, McCulloch said.

Some owners want to see how appearances of neighboring structures are improved before they decide how to upgrade their buildings, McCulloch said.

Knox said the first phase of improvements must be completed within 24 to 30 months as of June as part of stipulations for receiving funds.

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins said the New College Institute’s growth and development also will affect uptown revitalization. Efforts are under way to turn the institute into a branch campus of a state-supported university.

City Manager Clarence Monday noted that one of Martinsville City Council’s goals is to create “a vibrant, destination uptown.”

Revitalization ultimately is expected to lure people to work, shop, live and enjoy leisure activities uptown, said Monday and David Hill of Hill Studio, an architectural firm in Roanoke that is involved in the revitalization efforts.

In planning for revitalization, for-profit and nonprofit community sectors and state and local officials came together to try to help Martinsville diversify its economy, said Jeffrey Mansour, senior program officer for Harvest.

With so much involvement, he said, “I think the future is looking bright” for uptown.

The second phase of uptown revitalization will target the vacant Dana O. Baldwin Block between Market, Fayette, Church and Moss streets.

McCulloch said discussions on what to do with that block could get under way this summer.


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