Tuesday forum to plot future of downtown

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

November 17, 2013

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History usually is focused on the past, but the purpose of a meeting there Tuesday night will be the future of the city’s downtown area.

Based on early registration totals, the meeting billed as the Downtown Mount Airy Economic Vision 2018 Forum is expected to be well-attended by stakeholders in the city’s central business district.

“Right now I’ve got about 50 people registered,” Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison said Friday of the event that is open to the public.

Interested persons can still sign up for the vision forum, scheduled from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the museum on North Main Street.

“So far I’m pleased with the signups,” added Morrison, who became coordinator in July as part as Mount Airy’s re-entry into the North Carolina Main Street Program that it first joined in the 1980s.

The main purpose of Tuesday’s gathering is to update the vision for the downtown area together as a community and develop a game plan for the next five years. Those planning to attend represent a cross-section of people with an interest in making sure downtown Mount Airy remains a robust part of the local economy, Morrison said.

Included are property owners and/or merchants, downtown users, Realtors, bankers, members of groups such as the Rotary Club, the Surry Arts Council, parks and recreation representatives, members of the city council and others.

While diverse, their goal Tuesday night will be mutual, revolving around a central question: “What should downtown be like in the future — what mission statement do we want?” Morrison said of the goal of the meeting.

The forum/workshop will be facilitated by Liz Parham, director of the Office of Urban Development, N.C. Department of Commerce, the umbrella agency for the Main Street Program. Mount Airy’s participation in it is allowing the city to receive technical and other assistance under an objective of stimulating economic development within the context of historic preservation.

During Tuesday night’s forum, input will be solicited from citizens, business and property owners regarding their views of the strengths of downtown Mount Airy, what needs improvement there and what the downtown area should become in the future.

After introductory remarks, the participants will break off into small groups to discuss those topics. They will reassemble at the end to outline their concerns.

Helping to stimulate the discussion will be displays of photographs taken recently by about 25 people who participated in a “Picture Downtown” project. It involved volunteers documenting areas of downtown that need improvement as well as those that are sources of pride.

The photos can be viewed 30 minutes before Tuesday’s meeting begins.

Registration Still Open

Signups are still being accepted for the vision forum, with those interested in attending asked to either call or email the downtown coordinator’s office at 786-4511 or to indicate their intentions.

Morrison explained that organizers want to ensure there will be enough materials and name tags for all those attending, and the advance registration will aid plans to arrange the small groups in a diversified manner.

Light refreshments will be provided by Chick-fil-A.

“It should be interesting and I’m really looking forward to it,” Morrison said of the vision forum

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or