Public meeting on Walnut Cove future tonight

By Nicholas Elmes -

Residents have a chance to share their views for the future of downtown Walnut Cove at the Walnut Cove Public Library tonight, Thursday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m.

Eric Woolridge of Destination by Design, the firm hired to help develop a plan for Walnut Cove’s future, will be at the library presenting initial plans and ideas for how the town can spur economic growth through facade improvements, streetscape improvements, tree lined sidewalks and an amphitheater-based park.

He said tonight’s meeting will start with a brief presentation of the existing plans followed by an informal session where residents can comment on plans and ask questions.

“People can write comments and leave any ideas or concerns they may have,” he said. “We will have two of our landscape architects there to answer any questions. We are presenting very concrete ideas and two different concepts for how the Main Street area could be changed. We are trying to find out what is important to the community and to what extent things are worth pushing for or not pushing for.”

In October, Woolridge presented the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners an extensive overview of the project so far, providing recommendations of design guidelines for the town, possible facade improvement recommendations, streetscape recommendations and possible plans for renovations to Fowler Park and the site of the old Dodson hotel.

“You have a very dynamic downtown area anchored by Main Street,” said Woolridge. “It is a great canvas.”

He said the design guidelines offered represented a survey of design principles that had proven to work in other communities.

“We talk about a farmer’s market, parks, the importance of street trees, the width of the sidewalks and what is appropriate for moving people and also having places like eateries with tables on the sidewalk,” said Woolridge. “We talk about crosswalks and parking lots and how to make them look good. We talk about the need to have mixed uses in the downtown area, branding and programming. We talk about some functional art and outdoor dining. This is kind of a toolbox for the private sector. A lot of these are low cost things that can pull out a lot of character from the buildings.”

Woolridge suggested that the town consider removing the center lane from Main Street to allow for the development of angled parking.

“It would allow you to develop a significant amount of parking,” he said, noting that the plan also called for a roundabout to be installed at the intersection of First Street and Main Street to slow traffic before entering the downtown area. “We shot some of these ideas to DOT and they had some real heartburn about the angled parking. They felt it could slow traffic to a speed they do not like, but it is one of the things I am looking forward to hearing from the community about.”

Woolridge said his firm was working on a second streetscape plan that may be more appealing to DOT.

“We are going to look at keeping the center lane and maximizing the parallel parking and maybe creating some nice planters in the center lane where people do not need to turn,” he said. “Everything is anchored by the streetscape and improving that particular element.”

The plans also included a variety of facade improvements suggestions for existing buildings, including the creation of archways over alleyways.

Woolridge underlined the fact the proposed plans were all long-term plans that the town could work toward over several years.

“We are trying to think about elements in context of a new Main Street and a revitalized Walnut Cove,” he said, noting that his company had even created a new logo and slogan for the town. “The slogan we came up with is ‘Our roots run deep.’ There is a message and a story inside that that can be compelling.”

Woolridge said he hopes to have final draft plans with cost estimates to the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners by February or March.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes

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