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Tarboro seeks Main Street accreditation

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Tarboro's Main Street Coordinator Tina Parker, left, shares a laugh with Tarboro Planning Director Catherine Grimm, center, and Town of Tarboro Planning Department intern Hanna Whitehurst, as well as other coworkers, on Monday during a planning meeting at Tarboro Town Hall.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Downtown Tarboro’s revitalization effort appears to be in line to become an affiliate of the nationwide Main Street program in 2020.

Tina Parker, who’s the town’s Main Street coordinator, said downtown Tarboro is a month shy of having a strategic work plan ready as a requirement to secure accreditation for 2019. State Commerce Department officials said downtown Tarboro has not had an accredited Main Street program.

Parker said she wanted to make sure downtown Tarboro revitalization volunteers were first in agreement on the specifics of the master document, which is now adopted.

“They have been a huge component of the redevelopment of our Main Street program,” Parker said. “So we’re well on our way and really excited about it.”

Generally, the Main Street program emphasizes economic development within the context of historic preservation.

In effect, the master document for downtown Tarboro is going to serve as a blueprint to help guide future development in the heart of the Edgecombe County seat. Downtown Tarboro has a commercial district with banks, a brew pub, a coffee house, eateries, offices and a variety of small specialty businesses and shops.

Parker cited the importance of being able, as an accredited Main Street program, for her and downtown Tarboro revitalization volunteers to access resources, including professional development at the statewide level.

Parker also cited the importance of having a network and support system. Parker said this includes being able to reach out to other cities and towns with accredited Main Street programs to find out what has worked for them.

The National Main Street Center was established in 1980 as a program of the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Tarboro is on the list of the first municipalities in North Carolina to become a participant in the Main Street program.

Parker, 41, a Tarboro native, had directed the Small Business Center at Edgecombe Community College prior to becoming a Tarboro municipal employee in May 2018. She coordinates both commercial development for the town and the downtown Tarboro Main Street program.

Parker said in the past, there had been kind of an informal downtown volunteer group.

Parker said after she began working for the town, she and a group volunteers established the nonprofit Tarboro Development Corp., of which she is the executive director.

The Tarboro Development Corp. is a partnering agent with the town in assisting with carrying out the function of downtown Tarboro’s Main Street program.

Parker said she and the group of volunteers sought to make sure more volunteers could be incorporated into the program.

Parker said the Tarboro Development Corp. also decided to engage the state Commerce Department to revamp downtown Tarboro’s Main Street program. The state contracts with the national Main Street program.

For approximately nine months, the Tarboro Development Corp. volunteers and the Commerce Department worked together to develop the master document.

As for what an accredited status is going to do for revitalization of downtown Tarboro overall, she said, “I think, first of all, it’ll help us with a clear focus, because that’s exactly what the downtown strategic work plan has allowed us to do, is really focus on what our assets are.”

“It has really helped us sit down and focus on the four-point approach” of the Main Street program nationwide, she added.

The four-point approach is organization, design, promotion and economic vitality.

Organization includes building leadership and a strong organizational capacity, ensuring broad community engagement and forging partnerships across sectors.

Design includes creating an inviting, inclusive atmosphere, celebrating historic character and fostering accessible, people-centered public spaces.

Promotion includes marketing a downtown district’s defining assets, communicating unique features through storytelling and supporting a “buy local” experience.

And economic vitality includes building a diverse commercial base, catalyzing smart new investment and cultivating a strong entrepreneurship system.

Presently, 46 cities and towns in North Carolina are accredited members of the Main Street program.

Those on the list along or east of the Interstate 95 corridor are Wilson, Smithfield, Goldsboro, Roanoke Rapids, Williamston, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Washington, New Bern and Morehead City.

The Telegram on Thursday reported Rocky Mount lost accreditation status with the Main Street program after 2017 and has not returned to such a standing.

The day that story appeared in the Telegram, a city spokeswoman said City Community and Business Development Director Landis Faulcon had been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of a probe of programs administered by Faulcon’s department.