Salisbury comes up short in Main Street contest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Salisbury came up short in the 2012 People’s Choice contest for “Great Main Street.”
Mount Airy won the title by four votes after battling in the last days of the contest, which ended Monday, with Southport. Salisbury came in last out of six finalists.
“But it was great that we were a finalist,” said Betz McKeown, special projects manager for Downtown Salisbury Inc. “To be up against Davidson, that’s pretty special.”
The N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association chose Salisbury as a finalist from among more than 40 N.C. towns and cities nominated for having great Main Streets.
Some cities launched campaigns to encourage people to vote. Salisbury did not have an organized effort, and McKeown said she’s talked to some folks who had problems trying to vote for Salisbury.
“This was their first year doing this, and my guess is they have some kinks to work out in the voting process,” she said.
Ben Hitchings, president-elect of the association, said the voting technology worked fine, but people had to register before they could vote to avoid ballot stuffing and that may have dissuaded some. About 1,700 people voted in the contest.
“Salisbury has a lot of wonderful things going on,” he said.
The People’s Choice contest was part of the “Great Places in North Carolina” initiative.
Additionally, an expert panel selected five other North Carolina main streets, from the mountains to the coast, for recognition.
From dozens of nominations submitted, the panel named Asheville’s Lexington Avenue, Charlotte’s Tryon Street, Edenton’s Broad Street, and Hillsborough’s Churton Street as “Great Main Streets” and Gastonia’s Main Avenue as a “Great Place in the Making.”
“All of these ‘Great Main Streets’ are walkable, interesting and alive,” Fleming El-Amin, president of the association, said in a press release. “Through this program we celebrate their vitality and the local partnerships that have made them a focal point for community life.”
In late May, a ceremony will be held in each community to recognize its local planning efforts.
This year’s initiative is the first of what will be an annual event recognizing great communities in North Carolina.
“These places didn’t happen by accident,” Hitchings said. “We salute the collaborative efforts in each of these communities which resulted in places that people love and cherish.”
Winners are:
• Mountains: Asheville’s Lexington Avenue, which was threatened to be replaced by a mall 30 years ago and has become the cultural heart of downtown and the main canvas of street art, local shopping and food and local celebration.
• Piedmont: Hillsborough’s Churton Street and Charlotte’s Tryon Street.
Churton Street is a true, small-town main street that has served as the community core of the town and county for over 250 years. Along Churton Street, the historic district hosts a variety of unique restaurants, artisan shops, historic law offices and more, providing visitors a destination that not only preserves the past but also represents a vital and prosperous present day.
Tryon Street, the main street of the largest city in North Carolina, is a dynamic and vibrant place, emblematic of a major financial, cultural, entertainment and educational center.
• Coast: Edenton’s Broad Street, which has remained the center of the community since its incorporation in 1722. Broad Street serves as Edenton’s cultural, social and commercial center of the community. Its beauty is found not only in the magnificent vista of Edenton Bay and the Albemarle Sound but also in its architecture and people.
• Gastonia’s Main Avenue was recognized as a “Great Place in the Making,” as a story of revival and resurgence. In the 1970s and ’80s, Main Avenue suffered from the outmigration of people and jobs to the suburbs. In recent years, implementation of a Downtown Streetscape and Public Realm Plan has brought residents and businesses back to Main Avenue.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.