Santa's Presents Overflowing
in Kinston's Downtown
When Santa rolled into Kinston this year, he brought a bag of gifts just in time to make the 2011 downtown holiday season one of the brightest in several years.
The stage was set when Miss North Carolina Hailey Best arrived November 29 to help light the community Christmas tree, joining with hundreds of local talents, entertainers and WNCT Television personality Kweilyn Murphy to kick start the annual Holly Days Celebration.
The big news:
- On December 9, entrepreneur Stephen Hill launches construction of the first phase to convert the old Harvey-Brody building on Queen and North Streets into a major retail complex.
- On December 10, one of the largest crowd in recent memory enjoyed what has been described as the "best Christmas parade in many years."
- On December 14, local historic sites manager Guy Smith announces plans to finally move the remains of the CSS Neuse gunboat on or about May 30 to its final resting place in a new museum in downtown Kinston.
- On December 15, Community Council for the Arts director Sandy Landis announces a meeting later in the day for local officials to meet artists David Wilson and Brandon Yow who are designing a dramatic artistic installation at Queen and Springhill Streets as part of an African- American Music Trail throughout Eastern North Carolina.
- On December 15, Kinston's Historic Cemeteries Task Force and Pride of Kinston announces that a groundbreaking ceremony for a new entrance park into historic Maplewood-Cedar Grove-Hebrew cemeteries will be held Dec. 21, 2011 at 10 am.
"To coin a phrase, downtown Kinston is 'on the way,' " remarked Pride director Adrian King. He lauded downtown merchants who have enlivened the center city shopping area "with some of the most beautiful storefront windows anywhere in North Carolina."
When the annual Christmas parade wound its way through downtown under brilliant skies, it was "the best Christmas parade in many years," according to organizers Martha Bishop and Lea Jeffress. Competing with Santa for "oohs" and "aahs" was Spirit AeroSystems' inflatable plane which cruised over its admirers the entire length of the parade.
Some 100 groups—including 5 school bands, 20 decorated floats, 9 fire trucks and a host of local dignitaries—made up the parade, covered live by Kinston's TACC 9 cable television studio.
Harvey-Brody building conversion
Stephen Hill announced that construction of an Asian style bistro on the West North Street side of the building represents the first phase of his plans to convert the old Harvey-Brody building into a major retail center. The L shaped interior is fronted on 212 North Queen Street.
Through his company Hill Realty, Mr. Hill reported that future plans for the 28,000 square foot building calls for a boutique hotel, market rate apartments and a spa.
His vision for the project is being funded in part by a $200,000 Main Street Solutions Grant made possible through Pride of Kinston's participation in the network of some 62 Main Street programs in North Carolina...and a donation of the building to Pride, a non profit, by the Harvey-Brody family. The restaurant, or first phase, of the project represents a $700,000 investment, according to Mr. Hill. The application for the Main Street Solutions Grant earlier this year envisioned a $1.2 million total investment.
"The contributions of private owners, a private investor, a non profit organization, and the City of Kinston illustrate a vibrant partnership that is truly exciting," commented Pride Chair Mark Herring. He noted that Pride has been a partner with other investors such as those who built the Chef and the Farmer Restaurant and the retail stores which line the Herritage Landing shopping district.
"We are grateful to all our partners, but especially to Mr. Hill for his vision and for his love for our community," King added. It was noted that Mr. Hill spent at least $2 million or more to build the Mother Earth Brewing Company along Herritage and North Streets. The project, which required six storefronts along the two intersecting streets, represented the largest single renovation project in recent decades.
It was stated in the Pride of Kinston-City of Kinston Main Street application that Mr. Hill’s proposed renovation of the Harvey-Brody building can “serve as an example of the potential for buildings in our downtown; hopefully this will inspire others to invest in their buildings and partner with the City and Pride to promote an improved downtown environment.”
The CSS Neuse Move to Downtown
Board members for the CSS Neuse Gunboat Association heard plans Dec. 14 for moving the remains of the original CSS Neuse to its permanent home end of May, 2012.
Local historic sites manager Guy Smith said that if construction of the museum on Queen Street continues at the present pace, the ship can be moved from the Richard Caswell Historic Site to the new museum by May 30, 2012.
He noted that the ship will be disassembled into three sections for the trip from its West Vernon location to downtown. Bids for the moving job will be taken following a pre-bid meeting on Dec. 20, 2011 and that bids will be opened Jan. 11, 2012 to award the contract.
According to the present schedule, he said, the new museum will be transferred to the Cultural Resources agency of the State of North Carolina in July 2012.
Transferring some 12,000 artifacts taken from the CSS Neuse when it was raised out of the depths of the Neuse River in 1963 will occur after that time. The objects will be used in a number of exhibitions to accompany the story of the CSS Neuse in its new climate controlled facility.
The Confederate Navy vessel saw only limited service in 1865, on the Neuse River, near the end of the Civil War. It was burned to prevent its capture by Union forces and the remains lay in the bottom of the river near Kinston until it was raised 1963 by local history buffs. Currently it resides under a temporary shelter at the Richard Caswell Historic Site on West Vernon Avenue.
Groundbreaking for cemetery entrance Dec. 21.
Kinston's Historic Cemeteries Task Force and Pride of Kinston will host a special groundbreaking ceremony for a new park to embellish the entrance into historic Maplewood-Cedar Grove-Hebrew cemeteries. The project will also enhance the South Queen Street entrance into Kinston, according to project sponsors.
Advocates and contributors to the project are being invited to join in the celebration at 10:00 am, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2011.