Downtown Salisbury holds annual meeting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Local historian Betty Dan Spencer and Salisbury City Councilman Mark Lewis received special honors Thursday at the annual meeting of Downtown Salisbury Inc.
Spencer, the organization’s Volunteer of the Year, “spent countless hours working on our History and Art Trail,” Executive Director Randy Hemann said.
“Her skills in research, writing and graphics have helped make all of our new historic markers accurate and attractive,” he added.
Lewis was named Director of the Year. DSI has an 18-member board. Hemann said Lewis leads by example, is a good listener and “participates in the solution showing grace and flexibility.”
Lewis, an official with Bank of North Carolina, helped to persuade other bankers (seven banks partnered eventually) to participate in the loan pool used by DSI to purchase the Empire Hotel building on South Main Street.
And Lewis’ long-term vision helped to ensure projects such as the East Fisher Street entertainment district, Hemann said.
Downtown Salisbury Inc. held its annual meeting at Stelia Cafe and Lounge on North Main Street.
On the Empire Hotel, Hemann said the board has followed a long process on the 88,000-square-foot property. DSI advertised the property, received qualifications from seven development firms and has narrowed the search to one developer, which Hemann declined to name Thursday.
DSI hopes to have a memorandum of understanding in place by the end of October so the developer can begin a one-year feasibility study “with the goal of returning the building back into an operational hotel,” he said.
Downtown stakeholders might have a big announcement about the Empire Hotel to celebrate by this time next year, Hemann added.
In fiscal year 2007-2008, the downtown had two facades redone, nine building renovations, a net job increase of 49, a net number of new businesses of four, three building expansions, a $150,000 public investment and a $2 million private investment.
The year included the first street closing and public event for the redone East Fisher Street.
Overall, DSI sponsored 15 promotional events.
During the fiscal year, new downtown businesses have included Uncle Buck’s Pub & Grub, Ultimate Sports Apparel, Stelia Cafe & Lounge, O’Malley’s, Tabu, Gegorek & Associates Realty, Nancy’s African Hair Braiding, J&E Fashions, Hot Junk, Book Nook, Global Computer Solutions, Hyperlink Insurance Solutions, Wooden Stone, Critters, Caniche Tea Room and Students in Training.
Four new board members are Greg Anderson, Lesleigh Drye, Glenda Dyson and John Ketner. They replace Janie Allen, Mike Miller, Edward Norvell and Bette Pollock.
Many other individuals and companies were recognized for their downtown contributions over the past year.