About a year ago, the city of Randleman decided an old parking lot in Commerce Square needed to be resurfaced. But community leaders put their heads together and decided there was an opportunity to do much more than just re-black the pavement, so the downtown parking lot became the starting point for a much larger downtown revelopment project.
City managers in Randleman teamed up with a planner in the Piedmont Triad Regional Council to draw up potential plans for the lot and surrounding property, some of which were vacant buildings. A downtown committee formed, initially consisting of local business owners and Aldermen discussing possible changes. It seemed to become clear to everyone that possibilities were not at all limited to a new parking lot. Instead of dwindling membership overtime, more people began attending each redevelopment meeting, and after much community input, the old parking lot is now more of a center-city park. A local craftsmen installed a fountain and local public workers built a bandstand. Southern Exposure of Guilford County added an outdoor classroom. And it turned out, this was just Phase 1.
Community partners with the city of Randleman are hoping to launch Phase 2 of the project in early 2014 with plans to convert an old car wash into a Farmer's Market. There's already a $100,000 grant in place to support the conversion. Donations are also pouring in from local businesses for the projects. Other Phase 2 plans include turning a currently vacant Firestone building into a restaurant (the unique building has nearly 20,000 square feet of open space) and building a Veteran's memorial. Redevelopment isn't just applied to the built enviornment either. Randleman would like to see not only pedestrian walkways but connections to nature trails also. The city received a $200,000 Trails Commission grant to reach this goal.
Phase 3 of the revelopment project revolves around the building of an arboretum and an outdoor ampitheatre. And as the ideas grow, so do the partnerships. The city is now working in conjunction with Randolph Community College in redeveloping a building for expanded classes with other local schools and is looking into an opportunity to move the local library to a much needed larger space.
Despite the city bustling with new projects, Greg Patton, Planning Director of the City of Randleman, acknowledged that Randleman's downtown faced the same recent economic lulls that were felt all over the nation. "2008 was hard for a lot of people," he said. But by focusing on the community's strengths and reinforcing strong local partnerships, Randleman's downtown redevelopment project is showing a lot of promise.
"We're just trying to fuel the fire and keep it going," Patton said.
Today, with a mural going up and Randleman's first ever Christmas tree lighting set for after the Christmas parade, it seems the spirit of togetherness is a strong ingredient for making the city a better place.