City Council approves revitalization grants for downtown projects

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — The City Council approved revitalization grants for two downtown projects at a meeting on Tuesday.

The first was for $62,360 for the Morgan Ridge Brewery and Rail Walk Eatery at 421 N. Lee St.

Paula Bohland, executive director of Downtown Salisbury, Inc., said an economic impact study found that the Rowan Investment Company will be investing about $1.6 million into the city. An estimated $10,560 of new revenue would be generated annually and 23 full-time and 18 part-time jobs will be created.

The Salisbury-Rowan Convention & Visitors Bureau found that the project will have a projected $1.9 million visitor-related economic impact annually, bringing 50,000 visitors every year. About 75 percent of those visitors would come from outside of the county. That information was based on data that Morgan Ridge provided, as well as industry standards.

Councilman David Post said he did not think the tourism numbers were realistic.

“I would argue that what’s happening at Morgan Ridge is a very different business than what’s going to happen — I mean, out in the country is going to be a pretty different customer model experience …” he said.

James Meacham, director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said even if 50 or 40 percent of customers came from out of town, that would still be a significant number.

“You’re still looking at a substantial amount of impact coming every week from people that do not live here,” he said.

Councilman Brian Miller reminded the board that the qualifications for the grant do not include whether a project impacts tourism.

Councilman Kenny Hardin asked who were the project’s target customers.

Meacham explained that craft beer businesses attract people from the Millennial, Generation X and Baby Boomer generations, as well as people with more discretionary income. He also said craft beer establishments are enjoyed by families, and people will also be attracted to the entertainment Morgan Ridge will provide.

Hardin went on to say that he was worried about the Salisbury citizens who would not be able to enjoy the restaurant and brewery.

“I’m worried about the people who I talk to that see all of this happening and it’s almost like that elusive, ‘I’m never going to be able to enjoy that,’” he said, adding that he is not anti-business, but would like people of lower socioeconomic status to enjoy the projects coming to downtown as well.

After a public hearing, during which two people spoke for the project and no one spoke against, the council approved the $62,360 grant for the project with a 4-1 vote. Hardin voted against the motion.

Next, the council considered a $130,076 Downtown Revitalization Incentive Grant for the Washington Building at 118 N. Main St.

Paula Bohland again presented information from an economic impact study. The project would be a more than $2 million investment in the downtown area and would generate about $13,200 of revenue annually. With the Shuckin Shack moving into the first floor, at least five full-time jobs and 15 part-time jobs would be created.

Post again stated that the numbers being used to show the economic impact did not quite add up. He mentioned the $2,458 that the study stated a couple was expected to spend a year on gasoline and motor oil while paying a rent of $800 to $1,200.

“I thought the theory of living downtown was you don’t drive, you walk,” he said.

Four people spoke in favor of the project during the public hearing.

The council approved the grant for the Washington Building with a 4-1 vote, with Hardin voting against.

In other business, the council:

  • Recognized Janie Allen for her contributions to bring art to the city and for helping to preserve the Salisbury Mural.
  • Issued retiring Master Police Officer Lynn Foster his sidearm and badge.
  • Heard public comment. Vickie Eddleman spoke about National Suicide Prevention week and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
    Greg Alcorn gave six suggestions for Fibrant, including putting it on every meeting’s agenda, creating a sales and marketing plan, setting aggressive goals, rewriting pricing options, creating an “United Way atmosphere” of excitement and making it happen.
    Sue McHugh and Greg Rapp asked the council to move forward on a chronic nuisance abatement ordinance to hold property owners responsible for what happens on their property. Lane Bailey, city manager, said the Housing Advocacy Commission was working on the ordinance and should move forward with it soon.
    Carolyn Logan urged the council to do something about crime and violence in the city.
  • Adopted a resolution for the sale of city-owned property to Habitat for Humanity for $20,000 and accepting a property donation from Habitat.
  • Heard an update on possible locations for a dog park, including the Civic Center, Salisbury Community Park, Forest Hills Park and Greenery, City Park and Kelsey Scott Park.
  • Appointed Jon Planovsky to the Historic Preservation Commission.
  • Went into closed session about an economic development matter.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.