Talks target downtown revitalization


By Philip Sayblack
Staff Writer

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Local residents got to share their thoughts on what they feel will help downtown Rocky Mount grow during a special event Friday.

Ratio Design hosted an Open House on Friday night at the former site of Milton and Miles inside the Imperial Centre.  

The company was hired by the city of Rocky Mount to develop a master plan for the city’s historic downtown district. Dozens of people came out for the open session, taking part in a variety of activities that let them express their thoughts on what would rejuvenate the area.

Down East Partnership for Children Healthy Kids Coordinator Sydney Phillips said having healthier eating options for families and children would bring economic growth to downtown. 

“We don’t need more fast-food restaurants,” she said, adding that having a strong anchor business to entice other businesses is important for downtown’s growth, too.

Longtime Rocky Mount resident Mae Parker had a slightly different view on the food front.

“Having an ice cream parlor downtown would be wonderful,” Parker said. “Doing something like that would attract families — especially during the summer months — and that would encourage more businesses to come in.”

While restaurants and retail businesses were key in many people’s minds Friday night, Louis O’Neal took a different view on what the city could do to spawn growth downtown. He said having a Twin Counties sports museum would benefit the city.

“Kids won’t go to restaurants and shops but for so long,” O’Neal said. “Having a sports museum would be a boon for the city because of its impact on the city’s tourism industry. It would give sports teams something new to do when they’re not playing their games.”

Opinions on how downtown Rocky Mount can grow varied widely at the open house. Associate/Senior Urban Planner Jackie Turner welcomed each idea, too, saying Ratio Design held the open house “to get input, not to sell a plan to the city.”

“It’s great to have the turnout,” Turner said. “It makes me feel really good to have so many opinions from the people. We take all ideas because you never know when an idea could be a game changer. I want to have all of the ideas on paper.”

Local resident Julio Marrero was just as happy as Turner that local residents were able to voice their thoughts. He said having the event helped unite the community rather than divide it.

“I think it’s great to be able to offer input,” Marrero said. “It helps bring the city together. This is a good start. I see great potential in the city.” 

More information on Ratio Design is available online at http://www.RATIOdesign.com.