The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 17, 2014

City continues downtown revitalization plan through Old Central School site

By Shannon Beamon, Staff Writer

Friday, January 17, 2014 — Over the course of the past 10 years, the city of Albemarle has invested more than $13 million in its downtown area.

For the Old Central School redevelopment project to qualify for tax credits, the city put together a “small area plan” for the half-mile radius around the school. Part of this plan includes a tally of expenditures the city has invested in that area, which encompasses most of the downtown, over the past 10 years.

“I hope [these figures] show the commitment of the city and the downtown businesses to revitalize the downtown area,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said.

Of the $13 million the half-mile plan shows has been invested in the area, $9 million of that went into the renovation of City Hall.

The remaining $4 million went into projects such as street resurfacing, utility expansion and nuisance abatement.

“And I think it would be safe to say that isn’t half the money that has gone into the area,” Michael said.

The tally does not reflect the investments of banks and private businesses into the downtown area.

“I know there have been several multi-million dollar projects there,” Michael said.

There are also several tax breaks the city has granted for downtown restoration that are not reflected in that total.

Even without those figures, Rex Todd of The Landmark Group said if it wins tax credits the small area plan is in good shape.

“This is one of the best plans I’ve ever seen,” said Todd, a representative for the redevelopment company the city has selected to take on the Old Central School project.

“Keith Wolf in the planning department did an excellent job with it.”

Todd said this document represents a lot of careful record keeping by all of the city’s departments, which will be attractive to those administering redevelopment tax credits.

“But no matter what happens with the redevelopment project, this plan will continue to help the area in years to come,” he said.

While part of the small area plan documents what the city has invested in the past, the main goal of the document is to give the city a tool to address deterioration in the area now and in the future.

The bulk of the plan establishes a classification systems for structures in the area and puts each parcel of property in that half-mile into one of four categories.

Of 893 parcels they determined that 80 percent were “standard,” meaning they were in good condition.

Another 16 percent were “minor deteriorated,” meaning structures with visible, but less extensive, defects.

Three percent were “major deteriorated,” meaning structures were abandoned, unoccupied or unsecured with a clear lack of maintenence.

One percent were “dilapidated,” meaning structures were deteriorated beyond reasonable repair.

“On a three point scale of good, fair and poor, this data indicates that this area is in fair condition,” the report stated.

Michael said having this system in place will assist the city in addressing nuisance abatement, the enforcement of building codes, including the demolition of condemned property.

He said it can cost $10,000-$12,000 to demolish a house.

While the city tries to get the property owner to address such structures themselves, sometimes confusion over who owns the estate leaves that responsibility in the hands of the city.

“Nuisance abatement is a long, drawn-out process,” Michael said.

Having this small area plan in place, he said, gives the city a systematic way of addressing those properties so nothing is missed or overlooked, thus saving the city time, money and funds.

“It’s a great planning tool for the city,” Michael said.

The plan also lays out other ways of improving the area such as moving forward on road projects, designating historically-significant structures such as landmarks, further enforcing historic design guidelines  and promoting the Albemarle Downtown Area Revitalization Program.

“You can’t fix the [Old Central School] without fixing the neighborhood anymore than you can fix the neighborhood without fixing the school,” Todd said.

“The city needs both and I think you can see that at work in this plan.”

To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at