North Wilkesboro - The Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership (DNWP), a nationally accredited Main Street organization, celebrates a milestone this year - we’re turning 20. The non-profit volunteer lead group was officially accepted into the N.C. Main Street program in April 2000. Its original eight-member board of directors included Stan Clifton, Doug Merritt, Mark Pegram, Louise Gerhard, Bill Clifton, Debbie Ferguson, Chuck Forester and Ike Forester and Executive Director, Barbara Spears Pipek.
The N.C. Main Street Center works to stimulate economic development within the context of historic preservation, using a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and utilized by the National Main Street Center to assist communities across the country.
DNWP - The beginning
“Dr. Philip Keener, who was the Chairperson of the North Wilkesboro Planning Board, asked me as a Planning Board member to explore an avenue for developing a program to promote downtown revitalization.
The Town had a number of committed citizens who through the years had worked to enhance the downtown business district and they were successful in many ways. The biggest issue was that people’s obligations and interests change, leaders would step away and that particular organization would dissolve. Years might pass before another citizen leader would rise to the challenge and develop a group committed to the downtown area needs.
We wanted an organization with a framework that would allow for continuity as the individuals involved moved away from the work.
It took about two years to investigate programs and organizations, among them Handmade in America and Preservation North Carolina. At that time, we learned about the National Main Street program and how the Town might become a member.
A committed group of citizens formed an organization, originally named Historic Downtown North Wilkesboro and today known as the Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership, that was able to submit the application to the North Carolina Main Street Program. The Town Board made a three year commitment to provide partial financial support for HDTNW.
It has been rewarding to watch the fledgling organization grow from its tenuous beginnings to a strong, effective group of citizens and a full time Director now embraced fully by the Town as a partner.” Founding Partnership board member and current North Wilkesboro Town Commissioner, Debbie Ferguson
“I remember reading the announcement in 2000 that the town of North Wilkesboro had been accepted into the North Carolina Main Street Program. The acceptance showed that the Town and citizens were prepared to invest to make Downtown North Wilkesboro successful. I was moved to purchase a downtown building and began renovations for Ivy Ridge Traditions,” said Angela Day, former Partnership board member and past president and current North Wilkesboro Town Commissioner.
“As a new downtown business owner, I wanted to work even harder to grow North Wilkesboro and the North Wilkesboro Partnership provided me with a way to do so. I joined the Partnership Board and have volunteered for many years. The Partnership was a gateway to the public service that I now participate in as a Town Commissioner and started my involvement in Town functions. I have seen the Partnership bring together local business owners and citizens to be engaged in the success of Downtown businesses and events. In the twenty years since the Partnership was been formed, it has worked to bring in new businesses and the Downtown is more lively than when it began. Partnership events, such as Concerts on the Deck, bring visitors to the Downtown who are likely to continue returning and patronizing local businesses. I am proud of the evolution of North Wilkesboro and the North Wilkesboro Partnership over the years. We are a community team and I give thanks to the North Wilkesboro Partnership and all the people who now patron Downtown North Wilkesboro as a result of the Partnership’s success.”
From 2000-2019 the Partnership completed and helped fund 93 building rehab projects, saw the creation of 135 full-time jobs and 89 part-time jobs and 49 new net businesses. It saw 19 business expansions, 32 public improvement projects, a public investment of 1.9 million dollars and private investments totaling 19.2 million. And their volunteers logged 3000 plus hours, a value of 69 thousand dollars, according to the Non Profit Times.
The group plays a large role in preserving a traditional downtown look through its management of the town’s façade and mural grant programs. It’s Design and Preservation committee accepts and reviews applications and conducts interviews. Once a recommendation is made, the full Partnership board approves the grant and funds are dispersed. In 2019, nine exterior building rehab projects were funded.
Past mural projects include the Lowe’s and Coca-Cola mural restorations on D Street, the Mountain Maid Ice Cream mural restoration in the alleyway near the police station, and the newest mural, the Angel Wings project on Gordon Avenue. A mural is planned for 10the Street in 2020.
Downtown North Wilkesboro is home not only to 125 commercial spaces, but also 99 housing units. A vibrant district depends on residents who provide a 24-hour customers base and eyes on the street. Since 2016, the North Carolina Main Street Program has partnered with UNCG’s Interior Architecture Department and its Center for Community-Engaged Design to provide design assistance to the 94 Main Street communities across the State. As part of the Main Street program, North Wilkesboro has access to these services at no cost to property owners.
Today the Partnership continues promoting downtown businesses through events like Light Up, Art Walks, Live After 5 and block parties. We maintain 16 large planters throughout downtown, with the help of Wilkes Women’s Service League, and produce a comprehensive shopping and dining guide for visitors. And as part of our updated visioning statement, which looks to grow night life, we’re adding a New Year’s Eve “ball drop” next January.
Vision Statement: Where stock-car racing and moonshine were born, North Wilkesboro resides at the confluence of the Reddies and Yadkin Rivers, where downtown is the center of commerce and night life, serving to connect and cultivate innovators with the largest collection of thriving locally owned businesses. Downtown is where the arts come together as a haven for entrepreneurs, entertainers, skilled craftsmen, and artisans from potters to distillers.
Current board members include President Donna Goforth, Secretary Nancy Payne, Amy Blair, George Smith, Kylie Boothe, Christy Holt, Wanda Sapp, Garrett Griffin, Debbie Pearson, Elizabeth Lee and Felisha Daemer. Mayor, Robert Johnson and Town Manager, Wilson Hooper are Ex-Officio members and Crystal Keener is the Partnership’s Director. This group is comprised of business owners, a real estate agent, a tech industry employee, county services employees and North Wilkesboro residents. The Partnership receives funding from the Town of North Wilkesboro, drink sales at Concerts on the Deck, vendor fees and donations from community members. For more information or to become a volunteer or supporting Partner, visit downtownnorthwilkesboro.com