Roxboro Development Group plans busy year
At the Jan. 13 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club, Abby Gentry, executive director of Roxboro Development Group, updated the club on the role of RDG and its activities. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University in interior design and a masters degree in historic preservation from UNC-Greensboro.
Gentry said Roxboro Development Group is a nonprofit corporation with city funding. Roxboro became a North Carolina Main Street community in 1995 and RDG works to implement the Main Street program locally. It seeks to stimulate economic development through a four-point approach structured around committees. The Organization Committee facilitates a 13-member board and 5 ex officio member. She indicated the public is always welcome at RDG board or committee meetings.
The Promotions Committee organizes events to get people uptown and strives to promote new and existing businesses. The Design Committee partners with the City on Roxboro’s visual appearance. Façade grants are a large part of this effort, offering property owners matching funds up to $2,000 per façade for exterior building improvements. Since 1995, 78 projects have been completed as a result of this program, using city funds made available to RDG. The Economic Restructuring Committee focuses on business recruitment and retention.
Gentry cited Merritt Commons as an example of an RDG project with a positive impact on the central business district. She noted that RDG is also working with Piedmont Community College on the Kirby Rebirth project, which seeks to renovate the upper floor of the Kirby Cultural Arts complex.
She highlighted an economic vision forum sponsored this past November by RDG. Sixty people attended and provided input for the following comprehensive vision statement: “Nestled between Hyco and Mayo Lakes, Historic Uptown Roxboro is Person County's hub of community activities and commerce. Uptown preserves its history while offering quaint shopping, diverse culinary venues and lively cultural arts -- all in a safe, family-friendly environment. Come Uptown for the experience and stay for the charm and personality”.
Gentry emphasized that community support is vital. As the center of local commerce, ensuring Roxboro’s vitality is essential. She highlighted several events planned by RDG for 2014. These include re-emphasis of the uptown walking route, with a launch event in April; an uptown car show for April or October; and three Alive After Five events featuring the Mason Lovett band in May, the Holiday Band in August and the Embers in October. An event entitled WAM (wings, art and music) is planned, as is a road rally for the fall. RDG will also partner with PCC to continue the popular Spooktacular 5K run in October and Jingle on Main in December.
The club was informed of plans for the former Desert Sand building to become a multi-purpose green space. Work is ongoing on schematics which will enable exploration of funding opportunities. Gentry encouraged RDG involvement as a volunteer, a committee member or a board member. She reminded the group that financial sponsorships for the Alive After 5 events are also available.
In response to a question, she indicated that the quality of available business space uptown is a challenge, and that property owners are encouraged to consult her office for available assistance. A club member suggested development of a podcast featuring the existing Historic Walking Tour. In closing, Gentry noted that several local individuals will be receiving awards at the upcoming NC Main Street Conference in New Bern, which is another positive indication of the successful efforts of Roxboro Development Group.