Downtown group urged to ‘think smaller’


By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — Think small, urged Susan Kelly of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation.

Submitted photo Bill Weimer, left, of Fort Mill, S.C., and Lee Watson, of Hamlet, tackle an early loop around Hinson Lake last September during the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. The 2014 event is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Submitted photo
Bill Weimer, left, of Fort Mill, S.C., and Lee Watson, of Hamlet, tackle an early loop around Hinson Lake last September during the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. The 2014 event is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27. More than 200 runners are expected for the event from across the country.

Kelly, group president, told 14 downtown business owners and city officials during the RDC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday at Discovery Place KIDS that while big dreams are wonderful to pursue, short-term sights should be set on achievable steps that can be reasonably accomplished with existing resources.

Kelly reviewed a presentation packaged by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension entitled “The Brilliance of Small Wins,” and used it as a catalyst for a 60-minute brainstorming session. Sometimes, Kelly noted, big ideas are simply “too big, too expensive (or it) takes too long” to see to fruition and momentum is lost.

Focus, Kelly said, “on reachable goals and get started on them.”

Mayor Steve Morris suggested the Discovery Place KIDS 5K (3.1-mile) run/walk staged on March 29 — an inaugural event which attracted 105 5K finishers and dozens more in the shorter, youth distance — could be something to build on. He said groups already have contacted City  Hall to inquire about staging their footraces inside city limits on a similar course, which in March included downtown streets, a couple of hills and a bit of the Hitchcock Greenway trail.

Another footrace, long established each September, is the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic, also in Rockingham. There, runners log as many miles as they can around the 1.55-mile trail loop from 8 a.m. Sept. 27 to 8 a.m. Sept. 28. Group members discussed ways they could take advantage of their presence.

Judy Cagle, of the Richmond County Daily Journal and the Richmond County Humane Society, as well as owner of the paint and glass shop and downtown gym, suggested a small step towards improving existing assets that could have large payoffs. There was a consensus among attendees, paid RDC members and non-members alike, that far too many absentee landlords weren’t open to spending any money — at all — towards improving their properties, even if to replace broken windows or apply a coat of paint.

Cagle suggested those property owners should be invited to a future meeting of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation and, in a friendly manner, be taken to task and held accountable.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” said RDC member Sandra Ridley.

Cagle noted, however, that some property owners don’t appear interested in either fixing up their properties or making money off them. She said she knew of one building owner who had been approached by a local political party that inquired about leasing the building “for a fairly good amount of rent.”

The builder owner rejected the idea, Cagle said.

Kelly suggested the idea of “pop-up” stores or restaurants. Such establishments are temporary set-ups in which a business owner or group of businesses set up shop to take advantage of large groups in downtown Rockingham. That led to the discussion of the Discovery Place KIDS 5K, and how expectations are that participation will grow in future years.

RDC member J.A. Bolton, farmer, suggested the area could try and capitalize on the city’s Plaza Jam summer concert series the first Thursday of each month from May to October.

RDC member Vicky Mullis suggested working with the Humane Society to offer pet care tips and services to elderly pet owners in the downtown area on a regular basis. Dogs and cats could be bathed, have their nails clipped and more — and the pet owners could be encouraged to donate to the Humane Society.






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  • Dean Lawrence

    What Ever Happened to the “master plan’ years ago ,when we all did a ‘walk around’ and formulated numerous suggestions to upgrade the downtown area. Seems all that effort and creativity was lost. Someone ought to dig out the final report and see what still applies. The whole problem as suggested is ‘deadbeat’ property owners not ‘giving up’ the buildings to positive use. Are they all with-in code and can the city inspect and make discussions as to their continuance? the other problem is available parking for any endeavor. Some structures could be deemed unsafe or past repair ,creating demolition and turn that into parking. No reasonable possible tenant will take advantage of the area if potential customers can’t park. That’s the first thing strip malls and “box stores’ cover in their layouts. Then get some aggressive real estate professionals to sell the area with incentives FROM the city. You need a theme and specialty shops the shopping centers don’t have. Think ‘destination attraction’ and build on it.With all the history and tradition of the area, some smart entrepreneurs ought to be enlisted to revitalize the whole downtown. The new restaurant is a start…but parking will always be an issue. Solve that and you can go forward.

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