Projects could help downtown Lumberton reclaim glory

Rediscover Downtown Lumberton, an eclectic and not-always-easy-to-please bunch, appears satisfied today, fresh off a meeting with the City Council during which significant steps were taken toward that group’s mission, which is to make the downtown area vibrant once again.

The council, using a mix of grant money and local dollars, agreed to three projects that the RDL has embraced — a system of directional and welcome signs; a new design for the downtown plaza; and upgrades to an alley that runs behind the Carolina Civic Center.

All are projects that could be launched quickly, and none should take long from start to finish.

They would dovetail on the ongoing roundabout that is being constructed in downtown Lumberton, which will enhance the primary gateway from Interstate 95, Exit 19 and Carthage Road, make negotiating the area easier for motorists, and include a park to provide more of an airy appearance.

Although not a city project, the long-awaited renovation of the abandoned BB&T building is finally gaining traction with the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, which needs more space for administration and also to move other county offices, include Tax and Register of Deeds, out of the cramped courthouse. While nothing is certain, we believe that there might be room in the BB&T building for a private enterprise such as a restaurant, which would pull people downtown to grab a bite to eat.

And finally there remain plans for a river walk that would extend from Second Street along the Lumber River to the intersection of Water Street and Elizabethtown Road. The city is hoping to secure a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund that would enable it to bring the scenic river more into focus for folks who travel downtown.

Lumberton’s is like most downtowns of small, rural communities in this state, trying to recapture the good-old days when folks were pulled there to patronize local merchants, check out the movie theater, and enjoy a sandwich at a mom-and-pop shop. In other words, before the big-box retail outlets, Netflix and chain restaurants provided alternatives that no longer include a trip downtown.

What downtown Lumberton does have, however, is Rediscover Downtown Lumberton, a group that is sometimes squeaky and always determined.

Some of the aforementioned projects, especially the BB&T building and the river walk, will take time to develop, but as a group they represent enhancements to the downtown area that RDL hopes will mean that the historic downtown’s glory can not only be found in the past, but in the future as well.

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