“Big Plan” Palenick had his vision and confirmation of at least 3 more years of job security voted in by the Gastonia City Council last night, 5-1. Even tenacious city-cheerleader/mayor Jennie raised her hand in the vote. We wondered about that, was she worried about a tie?
In the so-called Downtown Revitalization plan, the former First Union building will be torn down to build a parking deck. That surely must be a good first step. Can’t find parking for the Thursday night summer events at the Rotary Pavilion and on the 4th of July, so it must be able to alleviate that mess. It is certainly very close to the other “Gastonia” destination hot-spots of the DS Botanical Gardens (11.51 miles), the Schiele (2 miles, ok 1.98 miles), and the always jumping Franklin Square 1 (4.51 miles).
It is really doubtful that the other voting members of the Gastonia City Council get it. Business markets develop over time. Government interventions to jump-start private investment have very mixed results. One key is the local community support through pride of the the financial committment, and “boots on the ground”. Many of the downtown property owners know that, have waited for the “free” money (i.e. your taxpayer $$) to flow their way and ultimately allow them to cash out.
We have no problem with property owners wanting to get the best deal for themselves, or for a community to “profit” by investment in the downtown areas. But when a plan “elbows” its way into the process, with little discussion and the spectre of class warfare below the surface, it becomes a fairness discussion.
Moving the Salvation Army Shelter and administrative functions out of downtown, to “…hide your brothers and sisters…”, as Captain Stan Colbert has commented, is one way to rid the appearance of blight and depression. Ok, so 5 million privately contributed dollars later, the shelter is moved across the tracks and the homeless cross the Marietta Street bridge and hang out in front of the new downtown Microtel Inn and Convention Center?
It is just a shame that this proposal also chooses to ignore the already committed investments that the city has made to renovate the Webb Theater and the private investment plans that are slowly turning.
A downtown investment is not a quick fix. Mr. Kirlin knows that. The city of Belmont knows that as well. Our downtown “beautification” is certainly taking on a life of its own, but remember, it was a decade ago and commitments by PRIVATE property owners to work together to make it all happen. The city just dealt with the streetscape and made an investment into the park area. The Belmont downtown development group (underwritten by Stowe Mills), and the revitalized downtown merchants association (re-formed when the chamber was struggling with membership), worked very hard to work on a mix of business types to hopefully balance a purpose to visit the downtown area.
That result is an apparently vibrant downtown at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. Of course, that commitment also cost a visionary mayor his elected seat, and brought several more years of obstructionist cronyism before we could seriously address the need for nurturing our community soul.
Gastonia has to suffer the throes of similar tribulation – it will all work out in the end, that of which, we are hopeful.
To comment on the event last night itself:
The Belmont Front Porch’s intrepid editors, taking pages from the political science playbooks, stationed people at the council meeting and watched the drivel unfold on television last night. The exit polls by the “watchers” definitely indicate an uprising brewing among the Gastonia electorate. As far as television is concerned, it would seem that both city council members and staff should learn to dress for the low-tech cameras that are trained on their every utterance of “uh”, “yeah”, “okay”, and our collective favorite, “um”.
Gaston College offers public speaking classes, Toastmasters International has at least two area chapters, and there are a host of community consultants that for a fee could help these elected public officials and hired staff stand before a mic and camera. Please invest your training dollars wisely if you hire or elect mumble-mouths.
The Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (DSBG) are by far the coolest piece of the Gaston County sites to visit. Over time, the Gardens will be larger and more complete — there is a 40-year Master Plan for the site — world class by anyone’s standards. This was a privately funded project without government “partnership”. The late Daniel Stowe kick started and endowed the development of the Gardens with a donation of land and $14 million in the early 1990’s. All other development has been through private contributions and sponsorship.
The unique destination sites that now border the City of Belmont are the US National Whitewater Center to the east (just over the river north of the I-85 weigh station) and the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. Along with historical sites located throughout the county, Gaston is blessed with tourism resources that can rival many pleaces.
Good luck to the folks of the community who develop and market these facilities. Belmont certainly has taken a lead when it comes to developing intriquing places to visit.
(Red Imperial Bromliad – one of 2,000 rare and exotic plant at DSBG)