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Talk of our Towns 

Davidson’s Main Street Named One of Five Great Streets in America

The American Planning Association (APA) named Main Street in Davidson as one of five Great Streets on the organization’s annual Great Places in America list.

As part of National Community Planning Month, APA’s Great Places in America program recognizes streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces in the United States demonstrating exceptional character, quality, and planning—attributes that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth, and inspire others around the country. The Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets, and Great Public Spaces of 2016 are places that are unique and exemplary in their amenities and infrastructure, cultural identity, and use of sustainable and innovative practices.

Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, APA has recognized 260 neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces around the country. Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.

For 200 years, Main Street has been both the physical and symbolic backbone of the Town of Davidson. The street’s distinct character and historic charm have proved resilient over the course of time through the efforts of an engaged community and remains a destination for residents and visitors.

"We are honored to receive this recognition by the American Planning Association," said Davidson Mayor John Woods. "Since it’s the site of many of our signature events like the Halloween March and Christmas in Davidson, and the location of many historic buildings and vibrant shops, restaurant, offices, and homes, Main Street is what provides our sense of community and binds us together."

The Town of Davidson celebrated this recognition on Friday, October 28 on the Davidson Town Hall front steps, just before the Halloween March, one of the town’s signature events along Main Street.

For more information about APA’s Great Neighborhoods and Public Spaces for 2016 and previous years, visit planning.org/greatplaces.

West Jefferson Wins National Recognition for Their Revitalization Project

The Town of West Jefferson was just named the winner of Strong Towns ‘Strongest Infrastructure Project’ contest for their downtown revitalization project.

When the NCDOT announced their plans to resurface Jefferson Avenue, which is a state-owned street, the city decided to use it as an opportunity to revitalize a neglected commercial area, fulfilling a long-held desire that the community had expressed during a public charrette back in 2002.

"The Town partnered with NCDOT, McGill Associates, Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, & Appalachian District Health Department to design a downtown that would be a pedestrian friendly and walkable downtown," explains the initial project nomination, submitted by Brantley Price, Town Manager of West Jefferson.

The revitalization of this area involved removing overheard power-lines and replacing traffic lights with stop signs, bumping out curbs for increased walkability and doing landscaping along the street. The town also used a program developed by local Arts Council Director Jane Lonon called the ‘Empty Window’s Project’ where local art was placed in empty storefronts. Today, West Jefferson has zero empty storefronts. As a result of increased pedestrian activity on the street, many local business owners have also been inspired to renovate and beautify their existing storefronts.

When asked about the positive impacts of this project on the town of West Jefferson, Price explained that the number one impact is "the economic vitality of it. We had empty buildings [before], and we did not go out and try to find these businesses. They just came and they filled our buildings." As a result of Jefferson Avenue’s redesign, Price says, cars drive slower which means drivers and passengers are more likely to notice local businesses.

Additionally, Price stated that the redesign has been a boon for both tourism and local economic activity: "It’s really increased our tourism, but you wouldn’t believe how the locals love it." The state DOT is now looking at implementing similar projects in other towns in North Carolina and has already removed 10% of traffic lights in the eight-county area of northwest North Carolina.

WPCOG and City of Newton Win NADO Innovation Award

The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) in partnership with the City of Newton recently received a 2016 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for the Newton Strategic Growth Plan.

The City of Newton requested technical assistance from WPCOG in developing a Strategic Growth Plan to guide the City in the coming years. City leaders and staff believed Newton needed a clear vision of how to capitalize on its central location as the county seat of Catawba County and to clarify ways to attract new residential and commercial development to the City.

City and WPCOG staff facilitated four public meetings with town residents to generate action items on Economic Development, Infrastructure, Transportation (including Parks and Recreation) and Public Safety with the purpose of the action items to bring economic development to the City and to improve the quality of life of City residents. Newton City Council approved the Newton Strategic Growth Plan in July 2015. Since adoption, the City has already taken action on several items presented in the Plan. For example, over the past year Newton has been working to complete the City’s wayfinding project with additional welcome signs and landscaping. Additional economic development has already occurred, as a new Walmart Neighborhood Market came to Newton in 2016.

"Newton City Council adopted the Newton Strategic Growth Plan just over a year ago," Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman said. "Since then, the plan has guided us as we’ve worked to expand and improve our infrastructure and provide our residents with a higher quality of life."

The Newton Strategic Growth Plan is available online at newtonnc.gov/ strategicplan.pdf.