RALEIGH, N.C. (Jan. 18, 2023)—ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc., the membership organization for municipally owned electric utilities—also known as public power providers—in North Carolina and beyond, awarded Downtown Revitalization Grants to four North Carolina public power cities: Gastonia, Laurinburg, Morganton, and Washington. Each city will receive $10,000 to help achieve its downtown revitalization goals.
“Study after study has shown that a thriving downtown is key to a thriving community,” said Carl Rees, ElectriCities Manager of Economic and Community Development. “Helping fund these high-impact projects injects needed energy into our members’ downtown areas, sparking growth and ultimately improving the quality of life in these public power communities.”
Gastonia’s Downtown Traffic Signal Cabinet Art Project
The City of Gastonia will use the ElectriCities grant to fund its Downtown Traffic Signal Cabinet Art Project, an initiative to enhance Downtown Gastonia with public art.
“This project reimagines traffic signal control cabinets as a blank canvas filled with a creative opportunity for the entire community to enjoy,” said Gastonia City Manager Michael Peoples.
Partnering with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Keep Gastonia Beautiful, the art project involves wrapping NCDOT traffic signal boxes with colorful designs at eight downtown intersections.
“This project will present artistic designs that make Downtown Gastonia come alive in colors, figures, and patterns, helping define a distinctive welcoming character that belongs only to Downtown Gastonia,” said Peoples. “Along with serving as a great placemaking tool, this project enables us to continue supporting the priorities we’ve outlined in our Economic Development Strategic Plan.”
Laurinburg’s Revitalization of 127 Main Project
The City of Laurinburg will put its grant proceeds toward restoring a cornerstone building at 127 Main Street in Downtown Laurinburg. The City has developed a two-phased approach to restoring the more than 13,000-square-foot building into quality, leasable space ideal for food and beverage service businesses.
Phase 1 is underway and includes environmental remediation, an overhaul of the electrical and plumbing systems, structural repairs, and preservation-minded cleanup. Funds from the Downtown Revitalization Grant will go directly toward the cost of repairing and replacing the building’s electrical systems.
“This Downtown Revitalization Grant will help provide a needed spark for encouraging economic development in Downtown Laurinburg,” said Laurinburg’s Downtown Development Coordinator Mary Allison Yancey. “The economic momentum we’re seeing downtown is challenged by the lack of quality, leasable space for interested businesses. Revitalization of 127 Main not only enables us to capitalize on that economic momentum, but it also demonstrates large City investment that will inspire future property and business owners to locate here.”
Morganton’s Coworking Project
The City of Morganton will put its ElectriCities grant toward developing a downtown coworking facility. Renovation of a building on South Sterling Street is underway, and funds from the grant will go directly toward constructing and up fitting the conference room.
“This location will be a great economic development tool for the City of Morganton,” said Morganton City Manager Sally Sandy. “Now remote workers and companies with only a few employees will have access to a convenient downtown office with the benefits of shared facilities, services, and tools that a coworking space provides.”
Downtown Washington’s Alleyway Improvements Project
The City of Washington will use its funding to install lighting and security cameras in three of its downtown alleyways.
“Improvements from the City’s streetscape project have contributed to more foot traffic and increased retail business activities downtown,” said Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell. “That traffic revealed the need to increase visibility in the area, which when complete, will help attract even more visitors and businesses downtown.”
About Downtown Revitalization Grants
“These grant-winning projects demonstrate that there are many ways to improve our downtowns and to spark and support development and leverage private sector investment,” said Rees of ElectriCities. “While each community is as unique as the projects, as public power communities, they share a commitment to providing their residents and businesses with safe, reliable electricity and excellent service while supporting their local economies.”
ElectriCities awards the competitive Downtown Revitalization Grants twice a year—each spring and fall—to its members in the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) and in North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 (NCMPA1). Grant proceeds must be used for projects that advance the community’s downtown revitalization goals and are approved by the city or town manager or chief executive. The next cycle for ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants opens in March 2023.