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Input sought on west side
Knox encourages participation from residents
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Martinsville Director of Community Development Wayne Knox speaks during a community meeting about the west side of the city on Tuesday at Albert Harris Elementary School. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer

Wayne Knox, Martinsville’s director of community development, encouraged people attending a west side community meeting Tuesday night to help develop a revitalization plan for the neighborhood.

“With the progress of the new NCI building on the Baldwin Block, it will only be a matter of time before some type of development will begin to take place,” Knox said. “Now, what form that will be is now in your hands, along with property owners, business owners, potential developers and residents.”

Knox said most of the open land is privately owned, but the city owns some parcels, mostly along West Church Street. The city-owned land is available for redevelopment, and the city will begin seeking proposals, he said. “Some other tracts of land are further out Fayette Street, in the vicinity of the Paradise Inn,” Knox said.

“There has been some preliminary planning going on for parts of West Church Street and the 100 block of Beaver Street. No plans have been finalized. That is where you come in,” Knox told the audience of more than 20 people.

“How would you like your community to grow, change, be stabilized?” Knox asked at one point.

According to census data for 2010, the west side neighborhood has a population of 2,247 people, 1,280 housing units. A total of 278 housing units are vacant, and part of Fayette Street is in a historic district (Market Street to Memorial Boulevard).

Knox said that in some past surveys, some people have indicated a need for such things as barber, shoe and ice cream shops, and a halfway house.

He asked attendees what kind of businesses they think could be brought in or helped to grow.

“Do we need a halfway house?” he asked, offering an example of the types of questions on which residents’ input is sought.

He raised the possibility of building owner-occupied houses in the west side “if you tell me where.”

He asked the audience if they were aware of vacant properties. “Let us know. Maybe we could put together a project area,” he said.

“It takes money. You have to have a plan. You can’t do it all at one time,” he added.

Knox said one previous study suggested developing educational center(s) in the Paradise Inn area.

Knox said: “We’re not here to displace people. We want to fix up what we have. We want to improve what we have.”

During comments from the audience, one man cited the need for a community center for children, a couple of people cited property maintenance issues, and one man suggested making parts of Church and Fayette streets one-way to hopefully reduce drug trafficking. One man commended the city for reducing drug trafficking.

Knox asked those interested to sign a list indicating their willingness to participate in developing a community development plan for west side. Eight people signed up (one for informational purposes), Knox said later.

Vincent Harris, pastor of Integrity Life Ministries on Fayette Street, said after the meeting, “I think tonight was a great start for our community.” He said if the community works together, it can accomplish its objectives.

City Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge said this is an effort to develop a plan from the grassroots level up, not government down.


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