The “New Town Square” Development Plan is underway.
by Charlotte Smith
Downtown Bladenboro has been prone to flooding since the 1990s. When Hurricanes Matthew and Florence hit in 2016 and 2018, the famous Bladen County municipality was devastated.
The flooding from Hurricane Florence wiped out most of the remaining businesses in the downtown area. Since then, the town was left with dilapidated buildings and only a fraction of its businesses.
However, committed community members have rallied for assistance from others to help their area. Boost the Boro, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to the growth of Bladenboro for over ten years, has never wavered in its dedication to improving and growing Bladenboro.
Boost the Boro, Inc. joined forces several years ago with the Town of Bladenboro, Bladen County Economic Development, Bladen’s Bloomin Agri-Industrial Inc., local and North Carolina State elected officials to revitalize the once-bustling downtown.
In 2017, the planning started with surveying the community members. The planning phase has taken years. With the assistance from Town of Bladenboro Administrator Oryan Lowry; North Carolina State Representative William Brisson announced last December the legislature provided an additional $300,000 in funding for the downtown demolition activities.
Today, the vision to redevelop Bladenboro’s downtown area around Main Street (NC410/131) and the corner of East Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and West Seaboard Street (NC211 Business) is well underway.
Construction workers started the demolition this week. Boost the Boro, Inc. President Terry Nance said, “It’s a good time for Bladenboro. Our town has a lot of history. We are excited to see what’s going to be next. There are many new opportunities for new businesses: office space, restaurant space, beauty shop, and barbershop spaces, as well as other opportunities.”
Nance continued, “The rent won’t be astronomical, and the rent will be set in comparison to other spaces in and around Bladenboro, not other municipalities.”
The demolition is not the only exciting news to take note of in regards to the “New Town Square” Development Plan. Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Heustess confirmed late yesterday he received confirmation that the project has been awarded a $900,000 EDA, Economic Development Administration grant.
Heustess said, “We can now start the process of hiring the engineer that will manage the project. We will be putting the projects out for bid and getting started even faster than we thought.”
The plan consists of the construction of two brick (masonry) buildings that will be connected by one deck boardwalk.
“They will both be above the flood plain,” Heustess stated.
He continued, “We have seven areas and a little shared business complex. We have nine folks that have expressed interest in the space. We have been pleasantly surprised at the interest in the downtown area.”
There is space for a bakery, a restaurant, a barbershop, a beauty shop area, a healthcare-related area, and two retail spaces with a shared office space between them.
Heustess said, “Right now, we have tenants interested in every space in the two buildings.”
However, leases for the spaces can not be signed until the costs of the construction is determined.
Officials are hoping the two buildings will be completely constructed by the first quarter of 2022. Nevertheless, the completion of the plan will depend on how quickly contractors and materials can be obtained. Heustess said there are reports about construction materials like windows and doors being on backorder. Also, Heustess noted, “Construction prices are excelling rapidly, and we want to get a bid, so we don’t take a big hit on the budget.”
The plan is working out, and many in the area share the statement, “We are excited!” which Heustess and Nance both exclaimed.
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