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NCI growth benefits part of Fayette Street
Monday, August 4, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The New College Institute’s new building in uptown Martinsville is sparking improvements to the portion of Fayette Street behind it.
The north side of Fayette in the block between Market and Moss streets will get new curbs and gutters and new decorative light fixtures matching others installed in the business district in recent years. Overhead utility wires will be moved underground, according to city officials.
With the construction of NCI’s new building on the Baldwin Block and the planned development of a medical school nearby, “we, the city, felt this was something we should do ... to spruce up that portion” of the street, said Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox.
The project likely will start this fall, said City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
Cost estimates were not available.
The affected stretch of Fayette includes vacant land as well as a church, accounting firm and hair salon, as well as several buildings that either are vacant or are being used for storage.
The planned improvements coincide with the recent development of two small “pocket parks” along Fayette between Moss and Jones streets.
When the work is finished, everything on the street should look like “it fits together,” Towarnicki said.
“In some people’s minds,” Knox said, the stretch has become “somewhat unsightly.”
The improvements will make it “look better,” and burying utility lines will make it easier to develop properties there in the future, Knox said.
Further development inevitably will happen eventually, he said, because of the institute’s new building and the medical school, which the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine plans to launch in a former grocery store building at the northeast corner of Fayette and Moss.
Knox said he has not yet heard any serious redevelopment plans for land or buildings on the north side of the street. However, he said, “it’s just a matter of time” until some are presented.
“Think about it,” he said. With an ultramodern educational facility already built and another one to be developed nearby, “all of that land will become quite welcoming” to developers, especially the vacant tracts.
Possibilities for redevelopment include housing and/or parking areas for students attending the institute and the medical school.
Property owners are “not just going to let the land sit there,” Knox said.
A group of residents and city officials exploring ways to upgrade the city’s west side neighborhoods is trying to determine ways to improve the rest of Fayette Street, he added.