LUMBERTON — The key to keeping downtown Lumberton growing and vital is the Lumber River, according to an urban planning firm’s representatives and their plans for its future.
About 100 people gathered Tuesday for a Rediscover Downtown Lumberton meeting at Adelio’s to get a sneak peak at what could become Lumberton’s five-year plan for downtown development. The unfinished plan being developed by Benchmark Planning of Charlotte highlights the positives that Lumberton has to grow with, specifically the river and its ability to be developed for tourism and recreational activities.
“From all we have seen the river is the primary attractor,” said Kevin Adams, a Benchmark representative. “The old water plant is a landmark site. So much can be done with that.”
Much of the discussion and questions askedfocused on the old water plant on Water Street and its development. In recent years the site has been proposed as an art gallery, but Adams said that the space must provide food and drinks in order to complement activities at the river.
A single-use project, such as an art gallery, at the site would not be a sustained draw for tourism, Benchmark’s Amy Jo Denton said.
One idea discussed Tuesday was attracting a craft brewery to the site, a business that would draw tourists and drive ancillary businesses.
The downtown area has several legal and financial services companies employing people around the courthouse, but it needs another driver, such as the river, to thrive, according to the plan.
“We should be a destination, somewhere where people can come and stay,” Denton said.
Denton and Adams told the crowd that an investment in downtown Lumberton, by their calculations, was more lucrative than one made around Interstate 95.
“Downtown Lumberton outperforms others places, but the problem is that you do not see it,” Adams said. “You have to help the community see the value that is already here.”
The downtown area’s strengths, according to the plan, are an ample amount of parking space, nationally and locally recognized historic sites and “great character” in architecture, Adams said.
“We envision a vibrant and progressive downtown,” said Richard Monroe, Rediscover Downtown Lumberton chairman. “Lumberton has to brand itself and one of the ways we can do that is through the river.”
The plan will be completed by the end of this month and then be submitted to the city of Lumberton for review. It is expected to be addressed by the City Council in May.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly