I began working at the city of Laurinburg on May 20, 2016 as the community development director after approximately three and a half years as a planner in Fayetteville. When the chance to come work for the city of Laurinburg became available I jumped at the opportunity. I stepped into this position with several projects in process. With the help of great coworkers including Zoning/Code Enforcement Officer Mac McInnis, Beautification Supervisor Rodney Byrd, and our Administrative Assistant Angela Taylor, I have joined in and picked up as if I was involved from day one.
My main area of focus has been transitioning from a Downtown Associate Community Program member to the Main Street Program for our Downtown Historic District. The Main Street program is administered by the NC Department of Commerce. Laurinburg was selected to the Downtown Associate Community Program’s inaugural class along with the town of Aberdeen, the Village of Chimney Rock, and the town of Elon. There are several tasks that the NC Department of Commerce asks of each Downtown Associate Community member in order to become a Main Street member. These duties include information gathering from downtown business owners, information gathering from downtown consumers, and development of a Laurinburg Downtown Vision forum. The Vision Forum will be April 4 and 5 and will be one of the last steps in the transition process. Once becoming a Main Street City the state will provide assistance on organization, promotion, design, grants, and economic vitality. The Main Street program is important for our downtown and will greatly benefit the city of Laurinburg in the future.
One project we currently have going on is the pass through property at 115 Main Street. This building was a vacant building that the city owns and is being transformed into a pass through to make a back parking lot accessible. We have had steel erected to make the structure stable. The old storefront was torn out to give the property an open feel. We have had some old cinder block and brick repaired. Once the contractors work is completed we will install planters with vegetation and have brick pavers on the ground in order to provide our community an open space to relax in and enjoy the downtown area.
Within the last year, we have had some significant outside investment in some of the vacant buildings in downtown Laurinburg. The staff and I have been working with the developers to acquire property as well as be somewhat of a “middle man” to help the developers with their presence in the community. Sometime within 2017 the citizens of Laurinburg should see work started on such buildings as 101 Main St. (Market Furniture) and the old State Bank building just to name a few. The remolding of these anchor building in Downtown Laurinburg will vastly improve the look and feel of Main Street.
The Art Garden is approaching its first year anniversary and we will be once again be teaming up with UNCP and professor Adam Walls to install new sculptures. The new sculptures will be unveiled on April 29 as part of the Spring Arts Festival. The Spring Arts Festival will be managed by Erin Rembert and the Arts Council of Scotland County. The Art Garden gives the sculpture students at UNCP an opportunity to display their work in other areas outside the campus. We decided to move up the unveiling of the new sculptures from June to April so the students will still be in class and be able to attend the unveiling of their work. We are also hoping to keep some of the art that is currently displayed in the art garden and move them to other permanent locations within the city.
We have recently had a platform constructed at the Art Garden. The platform is now currently available for use by citizens of Laurinburg as well as residents of Scotland County. Anyone that would like to use the platform can call the city of Laurinburg or come to the Barrett Building on 305 West Church Street for more information.
Additionally, within the last month the electric department has installed 40 foot LED lights at the intersections on Main Street. Downtown Laurinburg is now well lit up and we made this a priority for safety and to make it more welcoming.
I am very excited and optimistic about the future of downtown as well as the city of Laurinburg. My first year as an employee for the city of Laurinburg has been a rewarding experience and I can’t wait to see what the future holds as we all work together to make Laurinburg/Scotland County a great place to live, work, and play.
Michael Mandeville, community development director for the city of Laurinburg, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders to make Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.