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Talk of our Towns 

Obama Administration announces Rocky Mount’s participation in federal initiative

The Obama Administration announced the expansion of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative in Rocky Mount and six other cities across the nation. President Obama established the Initiative in 2011 to strengthen local capacity, coordinate federal investments and spark economic growth in economically distressed communities. Rocky Mount is the first North Carolina community to participate in the program.

The Initiative developed out of engagement with mayors, members of Congress, foundations, nonprofits and other community partners who are committed to addressing the challenges facing local governments as they work to create economic opportunity for all residents. 

Inter-agency federal expert teams will be deployed to work alongside city leadership, community organizations, local businesses and philanthropic foundations to support the community's cities' visions for economic growth and development. The primary goal is to help these cities more effectively invest existing resources, provide advice and expertise in support of local priorities, better align federal programs and investments, and facilitate new partnerships and peer learning opportunities wherever possible. 

"During these tough fiscal times, it is vitally important that the Administration provides support to those cities in need," stated U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The support provided by the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative is helping local leaders maximize every dollar to spur economic growth, create jobs and build stronger and safer communities."

The original pilot sites have effectively use more than $368 million in existing federal funds and investments. The Initiative teams provided advice and expertise that helped these communities make significant progress toward their goals in economic development, housing, transportation, public safety, public health and other areas.

"Participation in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative will not only strengthen our community now, but it will pave the way for lasting relationships with federal government officials. And, it is all happening at an opportune time, during the implementation phase of the visioning and strategic planning process, and while housing plan efforts are underway," said Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs. "The team's expertise is needed now more than ever, and residents in Nash and Edgecombe counties should be excited to see what we believe will be outstanding results."

In addition to the expansion of the Initiative, the Obama Administration previewed the launch of the Strong Cities Strong Communities National Resource Network. In February, the Network will take to scale the model piloted by Initiative teams and offer a single portal through which communities nationwide can connect to national and local experts with wide-ranging expertise and skills for short-term engagements. 

The Administration anticipates that the Network will develop and deliver innovative solutions to 80 - 100 cities and regions to help them address their toughest economic challenges by working with local leaders to identify practical solutions, share real-world expertise and best practices, and help cities develop the tools and strategies they need to grow their economies. The Network is funded by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and will be administered by the Enterprise Community Partners, Public Financial Management, HR&A Advisors, New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the International City/County Management Association. This consortium has also committed to raising an additional $10 million in outside resources to support the Network, which will double the reach and impact of the federal investment. 

For more information about the Initiative, please visit

Burlington breaks ground on Front Street Redevelopment Project


The Front Street Redevelopment Project will build new apartment buildings, renovate existing building and inject more than $1.4 million of private investment. Photo credit: City of Burlington.

Core Properties and Development and the Burlington Downtown Corporation announced the ground breaking for the Front Street Redevelopment Project, which will transform downtown Burlington’s buildings and create the first multi-unit residential project in the city’s recent memory.

The project is anticipated to inject more than $1.4 million of private investment into downtown Burlington during the construction phase.

“We are so excited to see this project take shape and are eager to share it with the community,” said Wellsley Robinson of Core Properties and Development.

The developers will build three modern loft-style apartments above 127 through 139 E. Front Street and complete renovations on the entire 200 block of Front Street located across from the historic Paramount Theater. Renovations will include transforming three buildings into prime restaurant and retail spaces, an overhaul of Biller’s Jewelry building, new facades, and upgraded interiors.

The project has been years in the making, according to Anne Morris, executive director of the Burlington Downtown Corporation.

“We have been steadfastly behind the project from the beginning and knew that the many challenges presented to the Robinsons’ would be overcome to create the great project now breaking ground,” Morris said.

The City of Burlington has been a key partner in bringing this project to fruition through grants and a comprehensive parking plan for the downtown area. Through the Corporation’s grant program, made possible by the city, the Robinsons’ are approved for four grants. Each of the three buildings will receive a $20,000 Rehabilitation and Modernization Grant and a Residential Incentive Grant of $8,575 to assist with the construction of the three loft-style apartments.

Financing for the project is provided by Capstone Bank, of Raleigh, N.C., which shares Core Properties and Development’s commitment to community renewal. The approximately $1.5-million project is scheduled to be completed in June 2014.

Matthews Parks and Recreation wins statewide award



 The Town of Matthews won the Arts and Humanities Award for its creative project to decorate the new greenway's sewer pipes like the one pictured here. Photo credit: Town of Matthews. 

The North Carolina Recreation and Park Association named Matthews Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources as winner of the 2013 Arts and Humanities Award in communities with a population of 25,000 to 74,999 for it’s Greenway Sewer Pipe Art Project.

This project was created to address the unsightly, rusted pipes along Four Mile Creek Greenway. Opened in 2011, the greenway travels along a sewer easement and is used by hundreds every week. The pipes and manhole covers were an eyesore when compared to the new, beautiful greenway. A call for artists was issued to see if the idea would generate interest. Matthews would provide the materials; the town just needed artists talent to be successful. The project began with 25 paintable locations, and 15 artists participated in the project during the spring and summer.

The Arts and Humanities Award honors the most innovative and effective arts and humanities programs of leisure service agency members of the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association. Through the state awards, recognition is given to both the importance of arts and humanities programs and to the leisure service agencies that provide them.

Founded in 1944, the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association is a non-profit education and advocacy organization, dedicated to the advancement of the park, recreation and leisure profession in our state. By empowering professionals and citizen board members through educational opportunities, we enhance their ability to change lives and affect communities on a daily basis for the citizens of North Carolina. An overview of the programs and services offered by the Association can be found at

Mount Airy named Official Retirement Community

The North Carolina Department of Commerce announced today that Mount Airy has been designated a North Carolina Certified Retirement Community. The N.C. General Assembly established the program in 2008 to designate communities that offer unprecedented quality of living that is desirable to retirees.

“This designation will be a valuable economic development tool for the city of Mount Airy and its residents, “said N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker.  “The people of Mount Airy recognize the valuable contributions that retirees can make to the overall enhancement of their community.”

To gain certification, a local government must submit an application that includes a comprehensive community survey and assessment tool that spans numerous dimensions reflective of the city’s readiness for retiree attraction. Ratings criteria include demographics; housing; technology; health care; local economy; leisure and cultural opportunities; services for retirees, community, education, and military.

“Beyond being the inspiration for the Andy Griffith Show, Mount Airy offers amenities found in larger cities,” said Mayor Deborah Cochran. “For the person who enjoys small town charm and a quaint downtown with wi-fi, Mount Airy boasts many cultural and recreational opportunities. We are excited about this designation and hope it will attract even more people to our great city.”

Mount Airy was noted for its many local amenities that are attractive to retirees. Communities with this official designation receive marketing and promotion assistance from the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development. North Carolina previously named Lumberton, Asheboro, Marion, Sanford, Mount Airy, Pittsboro and Eden as Certified Retirement Communities. 

The N.C. Department of Commerce accepts applications for the Certified Retirement Community Program in January and July of each calendar year. More information on the program can be found at