- Last Updated on 07:41 AM 05/05/14
- BY The Gazette-Virginian
Beautifying the downtown area with “three major improvements in the “greenscape” of Main Street” is the next mission of the Board of Destination Downtown South Boston.
Project One, “Carter Green,” is the first of the series on its way.
With the cooperation and approval of Worth Harris Carter, chairman and CEO of Carter Bank & Trust, and the South Boston Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the “green space transformation” will include approximately 7,000 square feet of open space adjacent to Carter Bank & Trust on the west side of Main Street.
Carter Bank & Trust and the IDA own the property. Both Carter Bank & Trust and the IDA have often cooperated with Destination Downtown South Boston in allowing the town to hold community events on the site, and Bob Cage sculptures have adorned the IDA section for many years.
The transformation will involve new landscaping and creation of a park-like environment with seating for the comfort and enjoyment of the community.
The project began on April 8, and progress can be seen.
The initiative to begin this program began in November 2013 after the Community Visioning meeting conducted at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.
Town Manager Ted Daniel presented a schematic of the downtown area coupled with a comment referring to the open space next to the bank as “the missing tooth in the smile of downtown South Boston.”
Tommy and Jayne Elliott were among the more than 50 interested citizens attending. Elliott serves as chairman of the South Boston IDA, and his wife, Jayne, has been on the Destination Downtown South Boston Board for several years.
“On our way home, we talked about what could be done to fill in that ‘missing tooth,’” said Jayne Elliott.
In her past experience as vice president of University Relations for Widener University, she spearheaded a major campus beautification program.
“Projects like this require a ‘creative collective’ — that is willing partners with innovative ideas, commitment, time and money,” said Elliott. “I knew the Destination Downtown South Boston Board had the ideas, the will and the commitment. All we would need is more creative partners, more time and a bit more money.”
Now in its 10th year, Destination Downtown South Boston’s official mission has been to work with South Boston merchants and the town to “educate, build consensus and create an environment that stimulates the downtown economy.”
According to Tamyra Vest, Destination Downtown South Boston executive director, “As a member of Virginia Main Street, our organization wears many hats. We seek out and often win state grant money to support facade improvements, promotional programs, community events, streetscape improvements and major undertakings like the New Brick Historic Lofts.
“We are often the first contact for entrepreneurs interested in locating here, and along with the chamber of commerce, are the diplomatic ambassadors of the town. This beautification plan is a perfect fit with our mission.”
Destination Downtown South Boston has been responsible for generating over $250,000 in grant and matching grant money in the past 10 years.
To build a bankroll for the “greenscape project,” Elliott began with her associates in The Global Friends Center and Destination Gallery, located across the street from the green space next to BISTRO 1888.
As a committee of Destination Downtown South Boston, the associates pledge any profit made from gallery sales to the betterment of downtown.
Her associates, Frances Harrell, Scotty Felton, Diane Maiden, Cynthia Haugh, Hongqing Ye, Angela Lewis, Susan Reddy and Joanna Blackstock voted unanimously in December 2013 to support the beautification project and started the fund with $1,500.
With some sound and supportive advice from Harry and Jane Mapp, and a $1,500 start-up fund, the “greenspace enhancement” idea was submitted to the Destination Downtown South Boston Board in January and was approved.
Wayne Fuller, president at that time, suggested the addition of a free library exchange concept, and Barney Newberry, board member, suggested the name of “Carter Green.”
The next step was to explore landscape improvement possibilities. Tony and Wanda Reaves of Reaves Lawn and Garden responded right away with a major in-kind contribution of close to $2,000 in plants and labor. Using their more than 29 years of experience serving Halifax County and environs, they made recommendations on trees and shrubs that would give color and beauty but require low annual maintenance. In addition, they agreed to plant, mulch and prune every year. The Reaves also serve on the design committee for Destination Downtown South Boston.
Bruce Anderson, of Anderson Lawn Care Service, Inc., also has been involved in Project One, helping with creative ideas. From Elliott’s early sketches, he created an enhanced photo illustration of how the area would look with landscaping and seating.
Anderson also has generously offered to assist in some over-seeding and fertilizing on Carter Green and has committed to assisting with groundscape improvements on Project Two, the street level area of the parking lot on the corner of Main and Charles Streets.
“For the park features, South Boston has the perfect resource and potential creative partner, SVHEC’s Innovation Center,” said Elliot.
She met with Clint Johnson, who directs the Product Design and Development program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. He saw the design and construction of park seating as an excellent assignment for his college students in industrial design and development.
“The concept of our program is design, engineer and build. It’s beneficial to provide real world projects for my students,” said Johnson.
“It takes instruction out of the textbook and into reality, with actual customers with form and function requirements, durability concerns, pricing estimations, deadlines, shipping, etc.”
He presented a design brief to his CAD 233 (Computer Aided Design) class in March.
Within weeks, the students had several designs. The winning design, constructed of steel and high-density marine grade polyethylene, was a collaborative effort by Kenton Beard and Raven Layton. Beard and Layton are in their second semester of the industrial design and development program working toward their Associate of Applied Science degree.
The cost of the materials was funded by the initial contribution of Destination Gallery.
The benches are currently under construction by the college students working with Halifax County High School students active in the dual enrollment program.
Andy Flowers, president and owner of McDannald Construction, Inc., and Mac McDannald, vice president, in addition to their creative input for the park feature, have offered assistance in the form of the masonry work that outlines the park feature.
To add to the local history aspect of the park area, the Town of South Boston has donated bricks that have been salvaged from old buildings and sidewalks.
Harman and Beth Saunders, their son, Catesby, and son-in-law Charlie Schwabe of Harman J. Saunders Construction, Inc. responded to the plans with ideas and enthusiasm and have committed to provide the installation and labor for the concrete areas of the park that flank Main Street.
As the first phase of Carter Green gets underway, Destination Downtown South Boston is actively pursuing additional community partners for all three projects.
Participation and giving opportunities include in-kind contributions of money, labor and/or materials. All gifts are tax deductible, and donors will be given a receipt of gift form by Destination Downtown South Boston.
Every donor for Carter Green will be honored and acknowledged on the engraved panels that will be applied to the steel sides of the benches. Like recognition will be designed for the other projects as well.
Project Two is the green area of the free public parking lot on the corner of Charles and Main Street.
Project Three is a pocket park in the alley leading from Main Street to the farmers market for which the design committee already has a landscape plan.
Gene Haugh, new Destination Downtown South Boston president and head of the design committee, said, “Beautiful green spaces enrich the downtown environment. One of our many goals is to complement the architectural attributes of our downtown buildings with green areas that reflect the charm of historic park environments. We hope that many people get on board and support these projects.”
The free library exchange box will be a next semester design/build project for Johnson’s class.
Janet Fuller and her granddaughter have already volunteered to oversee and maintain the adult and children’s reading materials. The box will be located at the end of the park area, with benches to sit and read.
As Phase One of “Carter Green” begins, Elliott said, “This is a Cinderella story. We know the beauty is there, under the scrub grass and the asphalt. It just takes more people like Mr. Carter, the South Boston IDA, Tony and Wanda, Bruce, Clint and his students, Andy and Mac, Harmon and Beth, Catesby and Charlie, the Destination Downtown South Boston board and the many others who see the beauty and want to make it happen.”