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The Siler City downtown master plan failing on many points

By Daniel Sundberg
Posted Monday, February 25, 2013

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Siler City, NC - I have often said that the only time people fill out surveys or give their public opinion is when they get mad about what is done. This time it worked as stated, only on ME. The downtown master plan design was completed and I was disappointed.

An input meeting regarding the Siler City downtown master plan is going to be held on Wed. Feb 27 at 8 pm in the courtroom in Siler City. If you live, work, own a business or shop in Siler City you should come to the meeting to give your ideas and opinions.

I was asked to provide my comments about the master plan. These were some of my thoughts:

1. The plan does not give an identity to Siler City. The plan could be applied almost anywhere. A plan that gives the town an identity will need research into what the history of the town is. What it's historic downtown looked like. What were it's key commodities? What did people come downtown for and why are the oldest businesses downtown located there? What does it have the best chance of selling now? What is missing and how can it be attracted to downtown? It involves getting out and talking to the shop owners and old timers. They do not come to you or complete surveys that only touch the surface any way. It takes legwork and a real effort to find out these answers.

2. The priorities are very much in the wrong order for Siler City. The overwhelming desire is to have restaurants, shops and entertainment venues downtown. This plan does nothing to encourage that either in policy or design. However priorities are needed. The comment that "the people who will spend the money will set the priorities" is just incorrect. The Town needs the priorities so they can budget the downtown improvements. The private business owners will only start when they see there will be a return on their investment in the long run. This is critical! and cannot be allowed to be ambiguous.

3. There were only two public meetings. The first to get input, (It was summer and I was out of town), and the second when the project was essentially done. The proposal had stated that there would be facebook updates. I had thought that was a good idea to encourage input but it was never done. One member said they wrote comments that they wish could be considered after the January 15 draft but they were never incorporated. Why should anyone bother to comment on a draft that is essentially a finished document. As said earlier, the designer needs to solicit comments. It is what makes the project unique and meaningful when implemented.

4. The survey does not align with the priorities. Spaces can be created in conceptual form to show what can be done to encourage a restaurant to locate downtown. Siler City will not attract restaurants unless they see that the Town employees and leaders as well as shop owners are welcoming. The Town should do everything it can to attract businesses downtown that will be open past 5:00. This includes assisting with outdoor spaces.

5. The plan will not fulfill the NC STEP economic development strategic plan and implementation plan's objectives as stated, (see below). It is unclear if this was an oversight in design or proposal acceptance criteria but is the biggest problem with the plan as presented. It needs to be re-evaluated by the committee.

Town of Siler City Siler City STEP Leadership Team

NC STEP Economic Development Strategic Plan and Implementation Strategy

"A master plan is a strategy for redevelopment. Done correctly, the team solicits input, goals, objective and dreams from the community, tempers them with urban design experience and market realities, and instills a vision for the future of a downtown, neighborhood, or other large project. .... It should include market analysis to ensure the feasibility of the projects defined. It should also have an implementation strategy that includes tasks to be accomplished, timelines, incentives, potential funding sources, and responsibilities."

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The Siler City downtown master plan failing on many points
The proposed master plan does not give an identity to Siler City.