Two North Carolina public power communities, Smithfield and Hertford, will receive $10,000 each to help achieve their downtown revitalization goals and spur economic development. That’s thanks to Downtown Revitalization Grants from ElectriCities.
The Town of Smithfield’s grant proceeds will help fund the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation’s Light Up Downtown Smithfield initiative, which is part of an overall effort aimed at increasing the vibrancy of the downtown, encouraging additional pedestrian activity, and increasing the visibility of Downtown Smithfield businesses.
The Town will use its funding to improve lighting in three downtown areas by connecting parking lots and alleys in the town center, encouraging continued foot traffic for businesses and restaurants.
“About 20 years ago, Smithfield completed an alley improvement project that included lights for pedestrian safety,” said Sarah Edwards, Executive Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation. “Today, we need to upgrade those older lights in the alley and add more lights to encourage people to enjoy the downtown area in the evening. We‘re also adding lights in other areas to improve the visual appearance of our downtown.”
A portion of Smithfield’s grant funding will support downlighting for an Ava Gardner mural painted by North Carolina artist Jeks. The mural, which features images of the Smithfield native turned Hollywood actress, is on the side of the Ava Gardner Museum that celebrates the star and attracts visitors from around the world. Adding lighting will make the mural more visible—quite literally highlighting one of Smithfield’s unique assets.
“This grant from ElectriCities will provide an immediate impact by increasing lighting that will enhance the appearance of our charming downtown and promote additional pedestrian activity,” Edwards said. “We expect that completing this project will encourage other public and private lighting projects as well. It’s a real win-win for Smithfield.”
The Town of Hertford will use its Downtown Revitalization Grant to help implement its Community and River Front Plan focused on art installations to attract tourism and improve the economic environment.
Like many towns in 2020, Hertford experienced a downturn in business and tourism during the pandemic. Looking ahead, Hertford participated in the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Recovery and Resiliency Initiative to help with recovery and to build resiliency for future potential economic impact.
As a result, the Town rebranded as a “cultivating the arts” community. Hertford’s plan focuses on visual arts, theater, music, dance, and culinary arts designed to attract visitors to the downtown area.
One of the ways Hertford plans to convey its art-focused brand is through murals and sculptures. That’s where the Downtown Revitalization Grant will help.
“One of the sculptures we’re commissioning is intended for people to take photos in front of and will be placed outside the Chamber of Commerce,” said Hertford Town Manager Janice McKenzie Cole. “This will allow us to monitor the sculpture’s success and help us plan our next installations.”
Installing the sculpture is especially timely since the Harbor Towns ferries and dinner boat will soon provide service to Hertford and other communities along the Inner Banks and the Albemarle Sound.
“By having an arts-focused district, we will promote a diverse collection of talents to engage those looking at Hertford as a unique destination,” said Cole.
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.
Congratulations to these latest grant recipients! The next cycle for ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants opens in spring 2024.