Concord Rotary Club members expect construction of downtown Concord’s first community urban green space to begin by the spring of 2014.
Not since selling World War II war bonds in the 1940s has the 90-year-old club taken on a project so big. Organizers estimate the club’s Rotary Square & Market will cost about $300,000, but roughly two-thirds of the money has already been privately raised.
Members, who emphasize that they want the community to have a sense of ownership in the project, recently kicked off a public fundraising effort to raise the remaining money.
“I want folks to drive by the project and say, ‘I helped make that happen,’ ” said Concord native Brian King, the capital campaign’s project chairman, a 10-year Rotarian and past club president. “The last $100,000 we need, I feel pretty confident we can get that through this grass-roots effort. ...”
Concord City Council in Dec. 2011 unanimously approved the Rotary’s proposed plan for the project at the corner of Corban Avenue and Union Street, across from the county courthouse.
The property is owned by Cabarrus County, and commissioners also approved the plan.
The site is one of the most prominent intersections in Cabarrus County, so there’s a chance it will draw new visitors and help expand awareness about the area’s local food movement by hosting farmers markets.
Piedmont Farmers Market plans to allocate $180,000 to the project. The rotary club, Cabarrus County, the city of Concord, and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County also have collaborated on this plan.
“I wouldn’t say collaboration like this is rare … but in this particular case, it looked like a great fit for everybody,” said David Phillips, a city council member since 1995 and a 10-year Rotarian. “I’ve been really pleased from every perspective because people have come together and agreed that this is a good thing for Cabarrus County – for downtown Concord and everybody in the community … I hope residents see the project as a way to improve their quality of life.”
Proposed plans include shelters and a splash pad. Other events – such as plays, art festivals and acoustic performances – also could take place at the site.
Organizers say the economic development project will help connect local artisans and farmers with residents and visitors while providing access to other recreational, entertainment and cultural opportunities.
Designed to dovetail into Concord’s popular Greenway Loop, the project also will feature gardens and a plaza area. Conceptual drawings suggest a sculpture could serve as an anchor to the design.
Diane Young, executive director of the Concord Downtown Development Corporation, joined the Concord Rotary in 2011. She said the project could help lure people downtown.
“I think as downtown Concord grows and develops and is built out, it’s really important for us to identify potential spaces for public gatherings,” Young said.
Mark Hermans serves as the local projects committee chair and helps identify and execute community development projects. With the project more than 70 percent funded, he said construction could begin before the scheduled spring 2014 groundbreaking.
“There’s been a lot of grass-roots type conversations within the community,” Hermans said. “It’s really a project of the community, by the community and for the community. The trend has been to sprawl outward, but what we’re trying to do here is bring people back to the center and focus on the urban core.”
James Stowe, 73, a 20-year member of the club, said the urban green space will be a great asset.
“It’s going to draw people downtown, and it’ll be a great place for fellowship,” he said.
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