Fairmont fights back

First Posted: 1/15/2009

There were plenty of jump-off places during the past decade as Fairmont’s pursuit of a new community center had more starts and stops than a Monopoly game, but never did local officials take a can’t-do approach.
Last week they were rewarded with the dedication of the Fairmont-South Robeson Heritage Center at the site of the old Super 10 store on Main Street. A grant of just more than $500,000 from the GoldenLEAF Foundation paid for the purchase of the dilapidated building and the brick and mortar for its repair, but the grant would never have been pursued except for the bulldog approach of Mayor Charles Kemp, who promised and then delivered the community center.
The 7,104-square-foot building, which was built by a Fairmont construction company, is impressive. It has two classrooms, a conference area that can grow or shrink depending on the need, and a kitchen for catering. Town officials say the center will be used for private and public affairs such as town forums, seminars, weddings and family reunions.
It was in the late 1990s that Fairmont officials began talking about a community center, but the idea first floated was for a free-standing building. Money was raised privately, but the cost of the building was prohibitive, so Fairmont officials went back to the drawing board. That’s when the idea of using the old Super 10 building was first considered, and it became more than an idea when state Sen. David Weinstein was able to secure the GoldenLEAF money earmarked to help communities that have been stomach-punched by the decline of the tobacco industry.
Fairmont officials last week also officially christened Memory Lane, which features murals of historical relevance to the town as well as a Wall of Honor with plaques honoring significant figures from the town’s past.
All this comes on the heels of the opening of Heritage Park, a gathering spot for local events that was the site of the recent July Fourth celebration.
The three projects are part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area. The look of the downtown area is vastly improved, and there have been some new, small businesses to set up shop.
Fairmont, a once-booming town that thrived during tobacco’s heyday, like much of small-town America has watched as its downtown lost is lure in the age of Super Walmarts. But unlike most towns, Fairmont has not accepted a sorry fate and is battling hard for its future, and enjoying some victories.

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