South Charlotte

Pineville seeks help for downtown's future

Pineville has made many improvements in the past two years: new sidewalks, trees, police department building and a renovated baseball park.

And the town hopes to get some help with the next improvements to its downtown.

Pineville is applying to the North Carolina Main Street program, an initiative of the N.C. Department of Commerce to help small towns revitalize.

If accepted, the town would receive consulting help from the state to improve downtown.

Although the program doesn't involve money, it would create a plan to bring more business downtown while maintaining the area's historical integrity.

Six small towns in North Carolina with populations of 7,500 or fewer are chosen every year. Pineville, which has a population just under 7,500, is working to meet the May 31 filing deadline.

A decision will be announced in June, with work beginning in September.

Each month for a year, the team would meet with town officials, residents and business owners to discuss its findings. Barbara Monticello, Pineville town clerk, is heading the application process. She has worked for the town for four years and said she's noticed a decline in visitors and new business.

"I would see groups of people come into one store and leave," said Monticello. "I couldn't help but get the impression that what they were looking for was to spend a half a day on Main Street going from shop to shop, but they were disappointed because they couldn't spend more time down there because of lack of variety of businesses."

Monticello said one of her goals is to find ways for business owners and town officials to work together to make the area more attractive.

"If you're going to have a new (baseball park) you're going to be attracting new people, and they are going to want to see other things in the downtown area," said Monticello. "I want them to say, 'Hey, this a cute little town, let's hang out here for a while.'

"If business and property owners aren't connecting with the town, we will lose that."

The program's team would seek to improve relations between business owners and officials. The team also would determine which businesses are best suited for the town, review streetscapes and building facades and make marketing suggestions.

"I would love to see people drinking coffee in a little bistro off Main Street or listening to live street music on Friday nights," said Monticello.

She also thinks the program would improve the quality of life for Pineville residents.

"Because we are growing we have a lot of younger families coming in, but we have an older section of Pineville where residents have lived for a very long time," said Monticello. "I'd like to see old-town charm but also have newer things to attract people who like culture, art and music."

Bill McConnell, vice president of W.A. Yandell Rental and Investment, agrees cultural businesses would bring in more visitors. He and his family own much of the property on Main Street, and he says they are ready to help Pineville improve downtown.

"For years those stores (on Main Street) have been all antiquers, but when the economy dropped, the antique business got hit hard," said McConnell. "We want to reinvent and renovate things so that cool little businesses would want to come here."

McConnell has seen the Main Street program initiated in Davidson and said the changes have been transformative.

"Downtown Davidson is about as cool as it comes, but it wasn't always that way," he said. "It used to be a sleepy little place. Whether you get (accepted into the program) or just work toward it, it has a lot of positive effects that ripple out and cause good things to happen."

He said the recent addition of Two On Earth Bakery in downtown is putting business in the right direction, and he hopes to see more of that.

"When Nova's Bakery opened in Plaza Midwood, that was the game-changer for the area," said McConnell. "We are hoping our bakery is going to be the cornerstone for a lot of good things here, too."