Downtown’s ups and downs

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Friday, Dec. 16, was a day of ups and downs for the city of Washington.

Most will remember the 16th for the final performance at the Turnage Theater. The Tar River Swing Band gave the theater a proper send-off with an evening of Christmas music intermixed with songs from the 1930s and 40s. The proverbial curtain fell with the capacity crowd singing “Auld Lang Syne.”

The nonprofit Turnage Theaters Foundation succumbed to the weight of its debts and was forced to close the doors, at least temporarily.

It was a sad end, indeed.

But around the corner from the Turnage, there was the happiest of beginnings as old City Hall was reborn with life anew.

Earlier in the day, the city of Washington closed on a $25,000 real estate deal for the historic structure with Cedar Grove Plantation, LLC. The building will reportedly be renovated and turned into a “destination restaurant.”

Those inclined to believe that the city gave the building away would be wrong.

Investors behind Cedar Grove are working with the city hoping to obtain $150,000 in grant funding from the N.C. Main Streets Solution Fund. The Main Street Solutions Fund goals are to provide direct financial benefit to small businesses, retain and create jobs associated with small businesses and spur private investment associated with small businesses.

Cedar Grove investors will provide the matching funds needed in order to receive the grant, not taxpayers. In order to qualify for the full state grant, Cedar Grove must invest a significant amount of private funds (anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000) toward historical renovation and create up to eight full-time jobs for the community.

As City Manager Josh Kay told the council earlier in the week, “(Cedar Grove) is going to be providing all the match that will be required. So, there are no dollars that will come out of the city’s general fund or any other fund the city has.”

In the wake of some of the negatives coming from downtown, we are encouraged by the efforts of Cedar Grove and hope it encourages others to do the same.