Wilson honored at state Main Street conference

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Public and private investment in the #DowntownTurnaround was lauded recently at the N.C. Main Street conference in Clayton.

Wilson was recognized for economic vitality in the category of best adaptive reuse project for 217 Brew Works and the 200 block of South Street.

The transformation of the Rountree-Roney-Brett House at 206 Nash St. W. into a space for city administrative offices was named a best historic rehabilitation project. Meanwhile, Wendy Moore was honored as an N.C. Main Street Champion.

“Wendy touches almost every facet of downtown,” said Susan Kellum, downtown marketing and communications coordinator for the city of Wilson. “She’s the ultimate cheerleader. She’s a downtown resident, a property owner, a customer and an advocate. She supports the businesses and residents, and she shares all that through social media.”

The nomination process for awards is extensive, but Kellum said she was glad the judges recognized the excellence of the two projects Wilson submitted for the contest.

“The awards get more competitive each year because every downtown is upping their game,” she said.

Nominations for next year will include the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and other ongoing projects. The park, which opened in November, has been a major attraction for people of all ages not only to enjoy the kinetic folk art, but also to relax and play. Downtown staff field phone calls on a daily basis about the park and inquiries about holding events, Kellum explained.

“The park itself offers so much, then you add a new brewery, new restaurants, new shops, a growing and thriving artist community,” she said. “We have a hard time keeping up with everything, which is a great problem to have.”

The park opening also has led the way for growth of existing programs and activities. Starting April 21, the Wilson Farmers and Artisan Market will combine the previous Wednesday and Saturday markets around town at the pavilion at the park. The spring concert series will move from Tarboro Street to the park under the new name Gig in the Park with a broader musical selection that past years.

“I have dubbed this the year of transition,” Kellum said.

Nearer to summer, LimeBike is set to bring rental bicycles that can be rented through an app to downtown. Unlike other bike-share companies, LimeBike does not operate on centralized locations but the bicycles are tracked through GPS and can be used wherever needed. Complete with a basket, the bikes will be perfect for downtown employees seeking to take advantage of the farmers market, Kellum said

To keep up with all the developments and activities, residents are encouraged to sign up for the monthly e-newsletter at www.historicdowntownwilson.com or follow “Historic Downtown Wilson” and the whirligig park on social media.

Kellum said attending the N.C. Main Street conference enabled staff and board members to share Wilson’s progress with downtown supporters and developers as well as learn about what is working in other communities. In addition to the award ceremonies, the three-day conference had more than 20 classes on topics from historic tax credits and preventing demolition by neglect to marketing and successful business when competing against online marketplaces like Amazon.

“All downtown areas are trying to attract the same audience of visitors and developers, showing off what makes each community unique and that is what we’re trying to do here,” Kellum said. “There is nowhere else in the world that has a collection of 30 massive kinetic sculptures that are created by an internationally recognized local artisan. That is uniquely Wilson.”