New exec broadens view of downtown

When Diane Young graduated from college in the early '80s with a degree in construction management, no jobs were available.

So Young, who had minored in historic preservation, became executive director for a community development corporation in a small Alabama town.

The Michigan native later held the same position in Georgetown, S.C., before moving to Salisbury when she got married in 1985.

Since then, she's worked as a consultant, helping owners earn tax credits on historic properties.

But she jumped at the chance to become executive director of the Concord Downtown Development Corp. earlier this year.

"It's a well-grounded organization with a good, stable budget," Young said. "I just felt like it was a great way to get involved in a downtown."

Young came aboard Oct. 18, and it's been a busy two months.

She's been introducing herself to business owners. She also conducted a survey of downtown Concord's assets and liabilities in preparation for applying for a grant from the Main Street Solutions Fund.

That fund, administered by the state Department of Commerce, gives money to build and renovate new businesses.

Getting broader input

Through the survey, she wanted to learn about the negatives as well as the positives.

"The responses were not a big surprise," Young said. "It just confirmed what we thought."

According to some 70 respondents, the top three assets of downtown Concord are the Cabarrus Arts Council and its Davis Theatre; its variety of good restaurants; and its historic district and architectural history.

The three liabilities mentioned most often were a general lack of parking, a limited mix of retail businesses and the homeless population.

The survey was available to residents and business owners.

"It was a great way to get broader input into the downtown's strengths and weaknesses," Young said. "I like the breadth of the responses."

Setting long-term goals

Perhaps an even more daunting task for Young is to increase public awareness of downtown Concord as a shopping destination for the region.

"There's a general sense in the community that downtown Concord is not high on people's radar," she said. "We have some amazing stores in our downtown."

She is also interested in attracting more businesses to the area.

"It just makes complete sense to use buildings that are in place," said Young, who lives in Salisbury's historic district with her husband and their two children.

She is seeing a desire for people to live in downtown Concord.

"We have a lot of components to support downtown residential living," Young said, citing another long-term goal.

Young is working with her board members to develop further goals at a retreat scheduled to take place in early 2011.

"It's easy to do when you have support," she said of her job. "I've never had a city that is as supportive as the city of Concord."