DMV Building

A new banner welcoming the state Department of Motor Vehicles flutters in the wind on Friday at the department’s new headquarters on North Church Street.

Plans are in the works for a kickoff gathering later this month for the future state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters north of downtown.

That is what Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris told the Telegram.

“This is a big moment in Rocky Mount and the Twin Counties,” Farris said. “And it calls for a celebration.”

Farris said he and his team are checking with the offices of top state officials to see what is open on their respective calendars.

Asked whether the Chamber would like Gov. Roy Cooper to attend, Farris was quick to reply, “Oh, absolutely, absolutely.”

The Twin Counties secured a public relations coup with the Council of State’s 10-0 vote on March 5 for a proposal to shift the state DMV headquarters from Raleigh to the former Hardee’s Food Systems corporate headquarters complex.

Large banners saying, “Welcome NC DMV” now can be seen on the main building, which is located along Church Street just north of U.S. 64 and across from the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

The General Assembly requires a process for relocating the DMV from the present headquarters along New Bern Avenue in the capital city because of health and safety issues beyond the state’s control.

Cooper, as the state’s top official, on Dec. 18 signed a 15-year lease with the landlord for the Rocky Mount location, sealing the deal on what had been the most competitive of 10 site proposals.

“That’s quite an achievement for Rocky Mount to have the very first state agency that has moved out of downtown Raleigh,” Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson, himself a former state transportation secretary, told the Telegram.

The DMV must vacate the New Bern Avenue location by the start of October.

“And so we’re hopeful that the work on the buildout process out at the Hardee’s campus, now the DMV campus, will be underway this month,” Tolson said.

A buildout process is a reference to making a structure ready for use.

Although Tolson said he is not privy to the specifics of the DMV’s plans, he said he and Farris have been working with DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup and others on a whole host of issues on the relocation to Rocky Mount.

Asked about the condition of the structures at the future DMV site, Tolson said the main building is in impeccable shape.

“The building owners have really maintained it very, very well,” Tolson said. “The other buildings are in excellent shape as well.”

The Telegram, in an email to DMV spokesman Jamie Kritzer, asked what the plan is regarding the relocation and how that will occur and when.

“In order to ensure we have continuity of operations and service, the move must occur in phases over time,” Kritzer said. “The exact schedule is currently being defined.”

Kritzer said the DMV, the state Property Office, the state Information Technology Department and various state Transportation Department support services are coordinating the efforts related to the relocation.

“This is a complex move and we are taking into consideration many areas to make this transition work best for North Carolina citizens,” Kritzer said.

This includes how the DMV moves staff so there will be continuous operations and the public receives service throughout the transition to the new facility, he said.

“It is important that we make the move while still continuing to provide the services North Carolina citizens deserve,” he said. “We are using strategic thinking to improve processes and create efficiencies to assure that any technology investments in the new headquarters make the most sense for the future.

“This is our chance to take advantage of everything this move has to offer so we can make lasting and positive changes,” he said.

The property was purchased in 2016 for more than $1.3 million by Raleigh businessman Scott McLaughlin and his partner, David Hicks, a Zebulon businessman from Nash County.

The complex dates as far back as 1967.

The Telegram at the time reported that the late Hardee’s President and Board Chairman J. Leonard Rawls Jr. told the local Kiwanis Club they were invited to what was going to be the formal opening of the facility.

The next year, the Telegram reported about an open house at the complex. The construction of the facility was quite an achievement given Hardee’s having been established at the start of the 1960s with one location in Greenville.

After Hardee’s was sold to CKE Restaurants Holdings in the late 1990s, the headquarters was moved to Missouri and later to Tennessee.

In 2000, what was Centura Bank signed a long-term lease for the complex.

Even after Centura Bank was acquired by RBC Bank and RBC’s U.S. headquarters moved to downtown Raleigh in 2005, RBC kept much of the back-office functions in Rocky Mount.

PNC Bank acquired the U.S. retail side of RBC Bank and continued to use the site until the expiration of a lease in 2016.