Cars are seen driving down Dickinson Avenue towards downtown on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)
By Wesley Brown
Thursday, January 10, 2013
An Ayden police captain and a Greenville business attorney volunteered this week to help lead a community redevelopment effort that would reinvent the Dickinson Avenue corridor as the “Tobacco Warehouse District,” an area many believe could become the city’s new downtown.
Burdened with one of the densest downtowns in the state, community leaders in Greenville have suggested flipping the city’s center to the southeast and repositioning it along Dickinson Avenue to directly tie into the 10th Street Connector.
However, city leaders say the area needs a vision — one Richard Patterson and Jeremy King offered to secure for the city on Tuesday in their first order of business since being appointed to the Greenville Redevelopment Commission in December by at-large City Councilman Dennis Mitchell.
The two commissioners volunteered to head a nationwide search committee for a qualified consulting firm to redesign Dickinson Avenue, the retail district several blocks south of downtown.
Early artist’s renderings of the Tobacco Warehouse District show a plan that would completely change the streetscape of Dickinson Avenue and provide a center of gravity and excitement to an area of the city that has lacked both, King said.
“Dickinson Avenue is an important entryway to the city,” said King, a partner at the Greenville law firm Lanier, King and Paysour. “I look forward to reviewing proposals to find the best match for the city. It’s a good use of my abilities.”
Patterson, captain of investigations at the Ayden Police Department, agreed.
“I am really excited,” Patterson said. “We have the potential to revive an area and make it an area of growth in our city.”
With the addition of several thousand square feet of commercial and cultural space, Scott Eaton, project manager for the city, said the Tobacco Warehouse District would evoke the area’s past, while embracing its future.
Eaton said the redesign includes rotating art parks; refinished wall murals; pedestrian plazas and informational kiosks; memorial markers for the Higgs neighborhood and the area’s tobacco industry and railroad; and 4-inch brick pavers lined with street lights, evergreen trees and a sidewalk cafe.
Eaton said the district would start at the intersection of 10th and Evans streets and extend south of Reade Circle, with its western boundaries being the Greenville Transportation and Activity Center, a multi-million dollar regional transit facility to be housed on Bonners Lane.
Eaton said the state Department of Transportation and Greenville Public Works plan to resurface Dickinson Avenue to Memorial Drive and that the district would build upon projects and neighboring properties to create an “alive, attractive, safe and walkable” area for city residents.
A lot of development is taking place along the 10th Street Connector, the major catalyst for the Tobacco Warehouse District.
East Carolina University bought land along West 10th Street to put in a maintenance and inventory warehouse and a new police department, the plan shows.
The U.S. Department of Justice is moving a federal courthouse from Wilson to Greenville, across from Sheppard Memorial Library, with talks of a $30 million to $40 million office complex going in next door for law officials.
Also, the old Imperial Tobacco Warehouse, which some hope will be the future home of a minor league baseball stadium, is being cleared of waste and debris in an environmental grant paid for by the federal government.
“I do not want to say that we have ever done these projects completely in a vacuum,” Greenville Economic Development Officer Carl Rees said of the project’s depth. “But there is so many different things that are being thought about in that area, with projects that are very real.”
Rees said in planning the revitalization of Dickinson Avenue his staff felt that limiting the project to phases, like they have done with other efforts in the past, “might be a little bit shortsided.”
“We thought it would be prudent to have a developer design the road for the next generation — 30 to 40 years down the line — with them accounting for bus traffic and the possibility of warehousing venues.”
Eaton said the redevelopment project would take about a year. He expects construction plans to be submitted by Jan. 6, 2014.
Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.
Timeline for Dickinson Avenue redesign
Jan. 14: Proposals mailed to consultants
Feb. 11: Proposals due
Feb. 11 – Feb. 25: Proposals reviewed
March 4 – March 5: Interview with finalists
March 8 – March 25: Scope and contract development
April 2: Contract awarded by Greenville Redevelopment Commission
via The Daily Reflector.