Residents in the Ghent neighborhood are begging for help from City Hall to do something about cars using residential streets as cut-throughs, raising the question, why wouldn’t City Hall help?
Could it be that City Hall doesn’t want to be seen as responsive when residents ask for help? That’s actually been an argument (“We don’t want to help you because then we’d have to help everyone”).
Could it be that City Hall thinks that throttling back on Ghent cut-through traffic will only push the problem elsewhere? (That actually happened recently when through-traffic was blocked and cars — temporarily — used nearby streets as a detour until they found that First Street is faster).
The real reason is something else, a mile away and an apparently unrelated issue — Farmers Market.
Farmers Market sits on a piece of prime real estate valued at $471,880, according to the county tax office. But that tax value figure belies its true value.
Located on railroad frontage and fixed between the N.C. History Center and Downtown Proper, this 1.2 acre parcel has been occupied by New Bern Farmers Market since 1984 (note: typo corrected from 1994).
The property was acquired by the Redevelopment Commission and then sold to the city for $10 in 1978. The enclosure on the property was purpose-built for the Farmers Market.
Farmers Market was originally seen by City Hall as an asset that attracted people downtown during a time when Downtown New Bern was getting back on its feet following years of decline.
The waterfront along the Trent River, once teeming with industry, had become derelict, nothing like what it is now today, and Farmers Market was one of the first improvements that helped downtown revitalization.
The city charged Farmers Market $1 a year to use the property, but when Dana Outlaw became mayor, something changed.
Outlaw, the son of a former New Bern city manager, started ridding City Hall of what he perceived as surplus properties.
He also ended city contributions to non-profits that had been helping the city in numerous ways, such as Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, which was primarily responsible for downtown’s turnaround, and New Bern Firemen’s Museum, which was in a city-owned building and also charged $1 rent.
The city sold the Dunn Building kitty-corner from City Hall and moved offices around to other city-owned buildings, including a former elementary school on First Street between Spencer Avenue and Trent Boulevard.
City Hall owns other properties — numerous houses that it foreclosed on when cash-strapped owners were unable to afford repairs and then the demolition costs when the city bulldozed the houses, and a large parcel of wetlands between the Pembroke Community, U.S Highway 70, Carolina Avenue, and Trent Road that it is selling part of to the New Bern Housing Authority to build low-income apartments.
City success in the real estate business is hit and miss. The houses in its inventory earn nickels on the dollar when sold compared to the cost the city incurs in legal fees, demolition, and marketing.
It has been having trouble selling the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street, and when a group of artists offered to rent it from the city, the city stole the idea but then failed at starting its own artist studio.
That wasn’t the first time City Hall tried to muscle in on the success of local non-profits.
Which brings us to the old Power Plant between First Street, Rhem Street, and Park Avenue.
After years of industrial use, the 3.8 acre parcel is an environmental nightmare beneath a thin layer of asphalt. No one in their right mind would ever buy such a property, given the high clean-up costs, although the county tax office values it at $339,720.
Stuck with surplus property that it could never sell, leaders at City Hall came up with an idea that they thought would kill two birds with one stone.
They would move, voluntarily or otherwise, Farmers Market from its attractive property downtown to the Power Plant property, once the city completed various improvements to accommodate Farmers Market needs.
The First Street property is a turd, but they would make it a shiny turd.
Unsurprisingly, members of the New Bern Farmers Market and downtown businesses and visitors resisted the idea. The timing wasall in the Farmers Market’s favor.
Even if City Hall evicted the Farmers Market at the end of its lease, the Farmers Market had a one-year extension option that, if it exercised the option, would have them being evicted the month before municipal elections in 2017.
The city backed down and granted another 5-year lease, but this time increased the rent to $500 a year (ed. note: corrected from per month).
Meanwhile, City Hall hunkered down. It claimed that instead of there being a farmers market-style City Market, it would partner with Craven Community College to hold courses at the newly branded VOLT Center.
But secretly, some city leaders held on to the idea of a farmers market, seeking grants and other funding using a technique called fraud. At least one grant application withheld key information, not the least of which was the implication that New Bern didn’t have a farmers market and City Market would fill that void.
Chemical contaminants and misleading grant applications aside, City Hall faced other obstacles in creating a new farmers market to put the existing one out of business.
The old electric generation plant, located between Country Club Road/First Street, Park Avenue, and Rhem Street, has access issues.
First, Country Club Road/First Street was butt ugly.
In fixing that problem (you may have guessed already, the city got someone else to foot the cost, namely N.C. Department of Transportation, aka state taxpayers), street engineers employed a concept called “Road Diet,” which is the latest thing at street engineer cocktail parties.
They took the street, a four-lane monstrosity with occasional sidewalks and plenty of eyesores, and spiffed it up, turning it into a two-lane street (with center turn lane), bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides.
That led to another problem. N.C. DOT said it would do the work, but resisted the idea of there being an entrance to City Market off First Street. It would be too close to freeway onramps and offramps, they said.
That forced City Hall to figure out a different way for hundreds of visitors to get to their future farmers market, which left one choice: Rhem Street.
Rhem Street is one block long and located within a commercially zoned district, although there are just as many houses on Rhem Street as there are businesses.
The two main ways to get to Rhem Street are from Country Club Road, and from (drum roll) Second Street.
See what they did there?
To put New Bern Farmers Market out of business, City Hall has to keep Second Street open to commercial traffic, even though Second Street, just two and one-half blocks long, is located entirely in a residential district.
Connecting the dots, it leads directly back to the property on which New Bern Farmers Market is now located.
For some reason, forces inside City Hall want New Bern Farmers Market off the property on South Front Street really, really badly, either by moving it to another location, or by putting it out of business.
The question is, who wants that downtown Farmers Market property so badly that they have City Hall in their back pocket, fighting fiercely to get it done?
The answer is reached the old fashioned way: Follow the money.
Duke Energy awarded a $5,000 grant to Swiss Bear, Inc. and the City of New Bern to be used for flood resiliency planning. This brings the total amount of grant funding for the planning phase to $30,000.
The City received a $10,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Swiss Bear was awarded $15,000 from Wells Fargo. Additional grants are being sought.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season brought devastating effects to New Bern and surrounding areas. Hurricane Florence, the first major hurricane of the season, made landfall in mid-September.
New Bern and eastern North Carolina bore the brunt of coastal tidal surge during the storm. In addition to tidal surge, Florence brought an estimated 20 inches of rainfall to New Bern. Damages to residential and commercial properties totaled $100 million.
Then, less than a month later, hurricane Michael came up the eastern seaboard. Although downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Carolinas, Michael packed 30 mph winds and dumped more rain on an already devastated region of eastern North Carolina.
Swiss Bear and the City of New Bern are spearheading flood mitigation and resilience planning to include all areas of vulnerability.
“We appreciate Duke Energy recognizing the impacts of this storm and assisting the City with funding for the planning phase,” said Mark Stephens, New Bern city manager. “As a utility provider, their crews saw the destruction up close after Florence. Their corporate partnership will help in this process.”
Flood resiliency planning will not only focus on structures and infrastructure, but also on environmental protection and preservation. New Bern’s location at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers makes it home to numerous wildlife habitats, which were disrupted during the storm. The planning phase will address ecosystem vulnerability as well.
Development of the flood resiliency plan is estimated to cost about $90,000. Swiss Bear and the City will work together to publish a Request for Proposals in the coming weeks to engage a consulting firm to develop the plan. After the planning phase, the city will move forward with funding an implementation phase.
National Travel and Tourism Week 2019, the 36th annual celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of the U.S. travel industry, will take place on May 5-11.
This year’s theme is “Travel Matters,” a recognition of the innumerable ways in which travel enriches lives and strengthens communities. Each day of NTTW will spotlight a different example of why travel matters to America.
For New Bern and Craven County, travel and tourism are so vital that “Travel Matters” are not mere words.
“They are the economic engine for the city, the county, the state – the entire country,” said Sabrina Bengel, chairman of the Craven County Tourism Development Authority. “That’s true whether you are traveling to a campground or a 5-star resort.”
Tourism creates jobs that keeps local economies humming, and brings in sales taxes that pay for vital government services.
“‘Travel Matters’ is quite accurate,” said Tarshi P. McCoy, executive director of the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center. “Tourism has an enormous effect on New Bern and Craven County and continues to grow each year.”
True, New Bern has been in recovery mode since Hurricane Florence struck in September 2018. Damage to DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New Bern-Riverfront indefinitely reduced available downtown hotel rooms by 171 and left the city without its only full-service hotel.
Paradoxically, occupancy tax revenues actually increased to record levels since Hurricane Florence, Bengel said.
That’s one of those “silver lining” situations, as construction workers, insurance adjusters, government officials and others descended on New Bern in response to Hurricane Florence.
That surge is expected to subside by the last quarter of the year, about the same time that New Bern Riverfront Convention Center is scheduled to reopen fresh from repairs.
New Bern’s tourism industry continues to market the city’s unique and historic ambience, and there has been an uptick in business for the city’s Bed & Breakfasts. Pollock Street in downtown alone has six B&Bs offering around 43 rooms, all an easy walk from the Convention Center and other downtown attractions.
Having a major hotel and a convention center simultaneously out of commission affects the city’s ability to attract larger conventions, but the city has adjusted its strategies in order to focus on its many other strengths.
While the city may find it harder to attract large-scale conventions, its ambience and unparalleled services still suit smaller meetings and events.
“We can’t have full conventions but we can accommodate boards of directors,” Bengel said.
Case in point: PepsiCo continues to hold its annual meetings in New Bern, where Pepsi was invented.
Tarshi P. McCoy has been creative in addressing recent challenges while continuing to focus on New Bern’s entrenched strengths, Bengel said.
“The New Bern-Craven County Convention and Visitors Bureau works closely with the hospitality partners to ensure that we promote our amenities and educate travelers on everything the area has to offer,” McCoy said.
Downtown New Bern may have 171 fewer hotel rooms, but two other downtown hotels, Courtyard by Marriott New Bern and Bridgepoint Hotel and Marina, are open, and Havelock, a short drive away on U.S. Highway 70, offers 300-350 additional rooms, Bengel said.
Those amenities, coupled with value-added services including shuttle services, keep Craven County in the tourism game.
That’s not all. Downtown New Bern features a growing and vibrant arts and theatre community and a thriving night life. The area’s ambience is well suited for weddings and events, which by nature of their advanced planning provide stability for inn, venue, and restaurant bookings.
What is National Travel and Tourism Week?
Established in 1983 by President Reagan, National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) is the annual salute to travel in America.
During the first full week in May, communities nationwide unite around a common theme to showcase travel’s contributions to the economy and American jobs.
This year, the travel industry is coming together to celebrate why “Travel Matters,” spotlighting a different way travel matters each day to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being.
SUNDAY: Travel matters to the economy.
Travel generated $2.5 trillion for the U.S. economy in 2018 across all U.S. industries. Here in New Bern, the travel industry generated $142.10 million to the local economy in 2017.
MONDAY: Travel matters to new experiences.
From our national parks to our diverse cities and our scenic small towns, travel is uniquely made in America. Our attractions, restaurants, shops, theme parks, music venues and more—and the people who make them possible—are the best in the world and showcase what makes America great.
TUESDAY: Travel matters to our jobs.
Travel supported 15.7 million U.S. jobs in 2018—that’s one in 10 American jobs, making travel the seventh largest employer in the private sector. Here in New Bern, the travel industry supports According to “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2017,” prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association, the travel and tourism industry directly employed more than 1,170 people in Craven County. Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Craven County was $29.06 million in 2017. State tax revenue in Craven County totaled $7.79 million through state sales and excise taxes, as well as income taxes. Local taxes generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses totaled $3.13 million..
WEDNESDAY: Travel matters to keeping America connected.
Within the next five years, Labor Day-like traffic will plague U.S. highways on a daily basis and within the next six years, our nation’s top 30 airports will experience Thanksgiving-like passenger volumes on a weekly basis.
Approximately 80 million inbound travelers visited America last year, about half of whom came from overseas. Spending by these visitors supports 1.2 million American jobs.
THURSDAY: Travel matters to health.
Americans are increasingly realizing the value of their vacation time, taking an average of 17.2 days of vacation each year. Yet less than half of that time is used to travel—despite its clear benefits for health.
Those who take all or most of their vacation time to travel report higher rates of happiness with physical health and well-being compared to those who don’t travel as much.
FRIDAY: Travel matters to hometown pride.
Over half of all leisure travel in the U.S. is to visit family and friends, making residents a community’s best tourism ambassador.
The intersection of sports—a key driver of hometown pride—and travel is unmistakable: in 2017, more than 150 million individuals attended sporting events last year across the five major sports teams.
SATURDAY: Travel matters to families.
Travel helps families connect, creating everlasting memories and develop a lifelong bond. When surveyed, most children (61%) say the best way to spend quality time with parents is on vacation. At their core, adults know this: 62 percent of adults say that their earliest, most vivid memories are of family vacations taken between the ages of five and 10.
A local couple is taking over The UPS Store franchise in New Bern from longtime franchisees Pat Drake and Mack Paul, who are retiring after nearly 25 years in business.
Jim and Middleton Hinckley of New Bern will take over management of the store around the end of April. An Open House will be held at the store at 1822 S. Glenburnie Road, New Bern, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, celebrating the new owners as well as the retirement of the previous owners.
The New Bern store has 1,200 square feet of floor space and employs three full-time and two part-time workers, in addition to the owners.
Jim and Middleton Hinckley discovered The UPS Store franchise was available while looking for opportunities to operate their own small business.
“UPS Stores are franchised with local ownership,” Jim Hinckley said. “It’s a great small business model and I think local ownership is a valuable business attribute.”
The UPS Store locations offer domestic and international shipping, packaging, printing, mailbox services, postal services, drop-off shredding, moving supplies and other small-business services.
Jim Middleton has been spending April preparing for the transition, including two weeks at a training store in Florence, S.C., and two weeks at the corporate headquarters in San Diego, Calif.
“Pat and Mack run a great business,” he said. “We have a great staff in the store so we are excited about that and look forward to getting to know them. The UPS Store offers a lot of services so we’ll be looking for opportunities to grow.”
The Hinckleys have been in New Bern for seven years. They have three children, Brent age 13, Middy age 12, and Marshall age 8.
Jim Hinckley’s background is in car sales, while Middleton Hinckley has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University before starting a family.
“It’s a unique and wonderful town,” Middleton Hinckley said. “For us, The UPS Store is a great way to further our ties to New Bern and contribute to the community.”
Pat Drake moved to New Bern in 1994 from Long Island, N.Y., and opened the New Bern Mail Boxes Etc. franchise in September 1994 (Mail Boxes Etc. became The UPS Store starting in 2002).
She met Mack Paul a month later as a customer. He was a journalist working for the Pamlico News. They married in 1997 and Paul started working at the store in October 1997.
Pat Drake and Mack Paul are known for excellent customer service as well as community service. They were recipients of a Community Fabric Award from the Craven Community College Foundation in 2016, are active in the Tryon Civitan Club, and have helped collect food and diapers for Religious Community Services and the Salvation Army.
With that in mind, they were not interested in selling their franchise to someone who would simply run the business.
“We didn’t want to sell to just anyone,” said Mack Paul. “We wanted someone who would continue our tradition of being active in the community—and they fit the bill.”
“Following Pat and Mack is somewhat daunting,” Middleton Hinckley said. “They not only run a great business, but they are also involved in the community in so many positive ways. We bump into their work and contributions in the area everywhere we turn. We plan to continue our own involvement in the New Bern community as well as many of the contributions Pat and Mack are making through The UPS Store.”
“Pat and Mack have earned their tremendous reputation in the community,” Paul Hinckley said. “Every single person I talk to comments on their tremendous customer service and philanthropy. Community involvement is near and dear to my heart, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of maintaining their example.”
Pat Drake and Mack Paul will remain in the area and continue to make repairs to their home, which was damaged by Hurricane Florence.
“Someone asked if I was quitting the Tryon Civitan Club,” Mack Paul said. “Why would I do that?”
“We’re not moving away. This is still home,” Pat Drake said.
An effort by New Bern city staff to start a farmer’s market at City Market on First Street was dealt a crippling blow on Friday when a key partner announced it is backing out of the plan.
The city was going after a $200,817 grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund to beef up plans to revitalize its old Electric Utility Yard on First Street. The plan, called the Volt Center, is well underway and includes a classroom area in partnership with Craven Community College. That much has been publicly known.
What wasn’t known outside tight circles around City Hall was a revived effort to start a 32-stall farmer’s market and a market café, with work starting Nov. 1. A “soft opening” was planned for the 2019 Holiday Season, with a full opening date sometime in spring 2020.
Key to the city’s grant application was its partnership with Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden, which would provide produce and other resources for the farmer’s market.
As of Friday, that partnership came to a screeching halt.
“It appears that the City of New Bern is going in a different direction on the project, therefore on behalf of the Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden Board of Directors and staff, we would like to formally remove our organization from the project,” said Lovay Wallace Singleton, executive director.
Singleton made the announcement at a mediated meeting of involved parties held at Craven Community College on Friday.
The meeting was held at the behest of a furious Ward 1 Alderman Sabrina Bengel, who announced at a Board of Aldermen meeting earlier this month that city staff was going behind her back with the new farmer’s market project.
New Bern Farmers Market on South Front Street. Google Street View image
“I find this to be a duplication of services already offered,” Bengel said in a letter to Singleton.
“The only reason I found out about it was that I was asked to attend a meeting with farmers (only two or three showed up) to discuss this grant. I was extremely upset about this because I had no idea this was moving forward. As I started to get more information it opened up lots of questions as to why we were doing this. I also learned that no one from our current Farmers market was included in these discussions nor anyone from Swiss Bear or the Catalyst Kitchen which is almost the same project as your proposed cafe.
“The discussions early on with the Farmers Market were that they were asked if they would move their operation to First Street. When their Board decided no, in my opinion talks led by the City should have started with them on how to enhance what they have at their current site and work with the partners identified in this grant. This is my reason for calling the meeting to have ALL the participants at the table. I started this conversation over a month ago and tried to get this meeting together prior to submitting the application but that did not happen.
“By opening another Farmers Market late this year for a soft opening and full on opening in April of 2020 will certainly cause economic harm to our current farmers market at a time when we need to do everything possible to help our economic engine downtown. With the closing of the Convention Center and now the hotel it would be better if we could work together to enhance the current market and all work together.
“… I do not want to hurt the EDA grant and am currently working to get the terms revised so that this property remains a training center run by the College in producing workers for the many important jobs needed in our area right now. I believe that should our first priority over creating another farmers market,” Bengel said.
Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham has a different take.
“The plan and concept for the city market is the same as it has always been,” Odham said in an email to the Post. “It has been unanimously supported by the previous board and the current board each time there has been a vote regarding the concept. It is my understanding that one member of our board says they weren’t aware the kitchen/market was part of the plans; however, the blueprints have always included this aspect as has as the CNI (Choice Neighborhood Initiative) plan.
“The concept has garnered quite a bit of support through multiple grants and various groups/leaders throughout the region. Now that one of the key partners recently decided to leave, we lost quite a bit of funding with the exit of this partner.
“The direction of the board has been supportive of the plan. Until a majority of the board gives direction, staff will continue pushing forward. Individual board members going against the direction of a full board sets a dangerous precedent.”
Base Camp’s withdrawal was not just limited to its withdrawal from the plan. Its board plans to “advise those entities that we are no longer part of the project.”
That’s not all.
“In reference to the funding that we have received for the City Market, we will coordinate with the grantor to determine the returning or reallocation of their funds,” Singleton said in her letter.
The rub is that a city farmer’s market would compete with the existing New Bern Farmers Market on South Front Street.
Several years ago, the city approached the Farmers Market with the idea of moving to the City Market location. When the Farmers Market board rejected the idea, city staff started playing hardball, threatening to kick Farmers Market out of its city-owned venue.
Timing didn’t work out for City Hall, however. The lease expired right at election time 2017, and rather than face backlash from furious Farmers Market members and customers, city staff extended the lease for five years but increased rent from $1 to $500 a month. It is the only case of the city charging more than token rent to a non-profit to use city-owned property.
It would also increase traffic on Second Street by an estimated 200 trips per day to start. Second Street is a primarily residential street in the Ghent neighborhood where the city has said it has been working to decrease traffic. (Disclosure: Randy Foster, the author of this article, lives within the affected area and has complained to the city about traffic on Second Street.)
The old electric utility facility on First Street is both a problem and an opportunity for the city.
Derelict and probably contaminated due to decades of industrial use, it was quite likely the city would never be able to sell it off as surplus property. On the other hand, the facility has easy freeway access and is a blank canvas for what it could be used for.
City staff first proposed a farmer’s market, but lacking support from virtually anyone, plus heated opposition from the existing Farmers Market, the city backed off – at least openly.
Instead, it partnered with Craven Community College and began renovations of the main building at the old electric utility yard, branding it as the “Volt Center” with the plan to offer college courses there.
But behind the scenes, city staff never let go of the idea of creating a farmer’s market.
The city partnered with Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden and sought a grant to pay for improvements at the old utility yard to create the farmer’s market.
The city sought a $200,817 (and fifty-cent) grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund to begin work on a farmer’s market starting Nov. 1, with a completion date on April 15, 2020.
The deadline for the grant application was March 8. The city beat the deadline by two days.
According to a statement for the Volt Center contained within the grant application, “the mission of the Volt Center is to provide access to workforce development classes, as well as an incubator and commercial kitchen, farmers market and agricultural center focusing on direct sales to the City of New Bern.
“… New Bern seeks to attract public and private reinvestment in downtown and distressed neighborhoods by offering the kinds of amenities, including workforce development opportunities, that transforms communities. New Bern seeks to develop a public/private partnership with broadbased community support.”
Two things were key to the grant application: Base Camp involvement, and broadbased community support. It is doubtful the city ever had “broadbased community support,” and now it lacks Base Camp involvement, as well.
Other points in the application amount to stretches of truth if not flat-out lies.
The application claims that the Volt Center/City Market is in Downtown New Bern. It is not; it is a full mile from the edge of downtown.
There is no mention at all that the facility would compete with an established farmer’s market.
The city has been claiming an effort to decrease traffic on Second Street, when in reality it was working behind the scenes on a project that will significantly increase traffic.
And the application said a “Market Committee of farmers and area stakeholders has been established to advise the City on the process and start-up operations,” yet no one from the existing Farmers Market has been involved, nor was the alderman from one of two wards most affected by the project.
The list goes on. Here are some excerpts from the executive summary contained within the grant application:
The City Market, located at the renovated Volt Center (the City’s former utility complex), will be a modern facility incorporating a farmer’s market featuring 32 stalls, a market café and incubator kitchen and training space for workforce development and educational programs, City Market is a partnership between the City of New Bern, Craven Community College, Veteran’s Organic Garden and Craven County. As co-applicants, the City and CCC secured grant funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the Bate Foundation, and Golden Leaf Foundation to renovate and repurpose the Center as a training facility and farmer’s market. The farmer’s market space also includes a café that will provide kitchen space and serve as an incubator for start-up businesses ranging from bakeries to food trucks. The City asks the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to join with other community partners to complete the City Market project, a first of its kind in downtown New Bern, N.C.
Partnering with the Veterans Organic Garden, the City of New Bern seeks to create a farmer’s market that will highlight and support agribusiness in Craven, Carteret, Jones, and Pamlico Counties. This market will be a permanent, year-round farmer’s market offering selling opportunities for farmers Wednesday thru Saturday with the ability to accommodate 32 farmers. The City Market will provide local, healthy food to consumers of all income levels and will enrich the community with opportunities to increase farm receipts and other food sales, employment, and cultural as well as educational offerings. The market will charge a low rental rate (approximately $40 per week for 4 days of selling opportunities) for farmers, as to entice participation. City Market’s mission is to create and maintain a market that supports area farmers through increased exposure to the consumer and additional revenues from the direct sale of produce.
A wide variety of fresh products will help insure the success and sustainability of City Market. The Market seeks not only produce farmers, but seafood, dairy, and egg vendors as well. A Market Committee of farmers and area stakeholders has been established to advise the City on the process and start-up operations. Farmers will be involved in making decisions about hours of operation, setup and layout design, etc. A Market Manager will also be hired to oversee a point of sale, market and café operations and education and special event coordination. Thus, farmers will have significant input in the development of the Market prior to its opening. A “soft opening” of City Market is set for the 2019 Holiday Season. A Grand Opening with farmers selling to consumers is targeted for the Spring of 2020.
In addition to expanding and enhancing the economic strength and viability of Eastern NC farmers, City Market will contribute to the education of city and county residents. With its location within the newly repurposed Volt Center, City Market will also be an Education Center for the community. Here, farmers will have access to small business classes specifically geared to agribusiness. Partnering with NC Cooperative Extension offices in each county and Craven Community College, City Market will be a vehicle for farmers to attain specific certifications, workforce development training programs and community education. NC Cooperative Ext will present a series of classes on the nutritional, environmental, and economic value of buying local sustainably-produced farm products.
Youth education will also be a focus with after school learning opportunities beginning at the preschool age. The area’s local Boys and Girls Club is also located less than 2 blocks from the Volt Center enhancing educational opportunities for these “at-risk” youth. Education and business development will interface at City Market’s Incubator kitchen and Café and training. Here, the Market will allow workforce development opportunities to train hospitality workers for mobile food carts and trucks, and encourage culinary events to take place at the market. Many new chefs, bakers, and food artisan are looking for ways to launch their businesses in New Bern, and the City Kitchen. In addition, the Market will promote the “farm to table” concept among local restaurants offering special selling opportunities for farmers to sell directly to restaurants. The incubator kitchen will give entrepreneurs affordable commercial kitchen access as well as collaborative space in which to launch their businesses. The kitchen collective has the potential not only to help put amazing and delicious food into the hands of those living in the greater New Bern community but, create jobs, help launch new and exciting culinary businesses, and assist in helping businesses incubate and grow in the tri-counties.
Increased healthy foods in food deserts which New Bern is classified.
Increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
Strengthened local and regional food systems.
Improved local economy.
City Market’s central location between the main thoroughfare to New Bern’s downtown commercial and historic districts and Hwy. 70 offers access to local commuter traffic as well as visitors to the region. Through a targeted marketing approach, the City of New Bern seeks to capture at least 2% of this traffic which will have a significant impact on farmer’s direct sales. It will promote City Market as a tourist attraction and community center featuring special events that draw shoppers to the farmer’s market and provide entertainment and activities for all ages. Located within walking distance of several economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, Five Points and Duffeyfield as well as 2 public housing projects, City Market will increase access to healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Our farmers hope to place their price points below the grocery store prices to encourage participation. The City hopes to strengthen local food systems, and contribute to a livelier pedestrian environment. City Market will promote healthy eating, and encourage a diet filled with rich whole foods, while highlighting local farmers’ beautiful produce, dairy and meat products. City Market will enrich the lives of many in the tri-counties. Community beneficiaries include residents of multiple New Bern Area neighborhoods, farmers, veterans and residents of all ages, chefs, restaurant-owners and business owners in Craven, Pamlico and Jones Counties.
… Sales for the Café opened 4 days per week will generate $180,000 (avg. $900 per day x 4 days per week) which equates to $12,000 in state tax. Food trucks (4) will estimate $24,000 generated in state tax.
… With increased support from the City of New Bern, the Incubator Kitchen and Farmers Market will produce an economic driver for local farmers, will give entrepreneurs affordable commercial kitchen access as well as collaborative space in which to launch their businesses to encourage economic stability. The City Market will bring business to neighboring stores. Spending money at farmers markets keeps your money in circulation within the local community, preserving and creating local jobs. Selling at the market allows City Market start our business slowly and focus on building our brand and customer base, where its impossible to do so at the big chains.
… Shopping at farmers markets that offer seasonal, locally grown food may reduce fossil fuel energy used to produce, process, and transport food, and can reduce the energy intensity of and individual’s diet if more plant-based foods are consumed in place of animal products. Shopping at farmers markets that offer seasonal, locally grown foods may reduce fossil fuel energy used to produce, process, and transport food.
Our farmers reduce the environmental and health impacts of pesticides by eliminating them or selecting effective materials with fewer known environmental health hazards. They treat animals humanely and strive to preserve the soil, water and wildlife habitat for future generations.
… City Market through the Volt Center will offer multiple educational initiatives for all ages. By exposing youth to farming and agribusiness, as well as educational opportunities and activities, they will be able to better envision a career in farming and will be more likely to choose this as their life’s work. Thus, City Market will continue to perpetuate future farmers and contribute to the stability and future of farming in the tri-county area of Craven, Pamlico and Jones Counties.
… City Market, through its numerous community partnerships and its marketing plan will bring awareness to the importance of farming and food production among all area populations, thus promoting and highlighting the significance of farming as an industry as well as promoting The Market as a community retail and gathering place. In addition, several neighborhoods adjacent to the Market are considered food deserts. The Market will help alleviate these food desert areas and increase the availability of fresh delivered produce to our disadvantage neighborhoods, by using targeted farmers.
Establish the City Market, a community market that will provide tangible support of local growers and producers in Craven, Jones, and Pamlico Counties, enhance greater New Bern’s economy and tourism industry. Through its partnerships with area nonprofit, government and educational institutions, the City of New Bern will create an easily accessible, centrally located, self-sustaining, community based farmer’s market. The City Farmers Market will promote the accessibility of fresh produce by capturing local and tourist traffic traveling on State Highway 70, which is one mile from the City Farmers Market Center location and brings NC residents from Raleigh and central NC to the coast and outer banks.
The City of New Bern is in the final stages of retrofitting the City Market complex with 16 anchor bays for farmers to display produce, dairy, seafood, and meats to be sold directly to consumers. Total vendor stalls when the Market is operating at full capacity is 32. The Market complex will be complemented by a Café and Training/Incubator Kitchen.
The City Market will be a market for farmers with strong farmer input. The City Market Stakeholder Committee, a committee of community farmers, business, education and nonprofit leaders, has been formed and is assisting in planning, raising awareness and encouraging participation in the City Market by area farmers.
In 2012, in Craven County, there were 256 farms comprising 70,632 acres and 276 acres on average. In addition to acreage producing grains, etc. Craven County farmers planted more than 35 acres in vegetables such as sweet corn, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. City Market and its Stakeholder Committee will reach out to those farmers and recruit them as City Market vendors. Reasonable rental rates and a strong marketing campaign and a single point of sale are supportive services the Market will provide that will encourage their participation. Local farmers can steer pricing and give guidance to ensure success and high farmer engagement in the Market. Currently, Craven ranks 28th in cash receipts from crops and livestock. Ultimately, selling and marketing of farm activities and production will bring awareness to NC Farms and improve the overall economy of NC.
The tri-counties’ proximity to MCAS Cherry Point, Camp LeJeune and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base make this area attractive to veterans. Approximately 10% of the 150,000+ people living in Craven, Pamlico, Jones Counties are Veterans. Many are choosing farming as a second career. The City has partnered with the Veteran’s Employment Base Camp (VEBCOG) is a non-profit organization designed to reintroduce unemployed, disabled veterans back in to the workforce as a productive, employable individual. VEBCOG will provide temporary employment and training during the post-war transitional phase. Urban farming is incorporated in the program as a peaceful means of rehabilitation for the veterans, who have previously faced more trying and violent situations while in the service. These veterans will especially be encouraged to sell at the Market and use it as incubator for their farming initiatives. City Market and its Stakeholder’s Committee can provide much needed support and mentorship for those new to farming.
The City Market will increase area farmers’ revenues from direct sales. Regional (eastern North Carolina) estimates for small farmer’s market’s gross sales (12 farmers) on a Saturday morning are approximately $1,000 per hour for a 3-hour period. By increasing the number of days and hours farmers are able to sell their products directly to consumers to 4 days per week for 5 hrs. per day, City Market’s goal is to increase farmer’s revenues from $250 per week to approximately $1500 per week over the next 2 years.
Scholarships for Market rent will also be available for new farmers and those needing that financial support. City Market will target its marketing efforts to capture commuters returning home from downtown offices, local residents of the adjacent neighborhoods as well as the Downtown Historic District and Ghent Neighborhoods and tourists frequenting the Greater New Bern Area. 12,000 cars travel on First Street on their way to or from downtown New Bern every week. In addition, an average of 101,000 thousand cars pass by on Highway 70E each day. The City of New Bern seeks to capture 2% of this commuter market and position itself as “a neighborhood market” for those residents living within walking distance of the Market. The City will advertise, market, and raise awareness to ensure high visitor volume and success of City Market by adding in-kind advertising dollars. If only 2% of the commuter traffic passing by the Market makes a $20.00 purchase, the overall gross profit to farmers and ranchers annually will be $106,000.
Increase domestic consumption of and access to locally produced agricultural products to all residents. City Market will work with NC Cooperative Extension and other entities to educate the community, engage families in the Market and promote these healthy food choices. The City of New Bern received a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant in 2015. The Choice Neighborhoods area is adjacent to the City Market location. 36% of the population of these neighborhoods lives at or below the poverty level. However, during the planning period, 30% of the population surveyed indicated they wanted access to fresh produce. Thus, City Market hopes to impact low income neighborhoods with increased availability and proximity of fresh fruits and produce, meats, and diary products. The Market is in walking distance to 3,300 people living in the Greater Five Points areas. City Market will educate these neighbors about healthy eating and food choices as well as having market vendors accept SNAP benefit cards.
Performance Measure #1 100% of Anchor Bays filled by Dec. 2020
Performance Measure #2 Increase in Dollar value and percentage of increase in sales of one or more specialty crops as the result of marketing and/or promotional activities happening at the City Market. Farmers will establish baselines of sales using sales @ farmers’ markets in Lenior and Pitt Counties to determine performance measures. As stated above, a measurable outcome of the Market will be increased sales revenues for farmers
Performance Measure #3 80% of Total Market Bays filled by Dec. 2021.
Performance Measure #4 City Market will work with NC Cooperative Extension to track growth in acreage planted in vegetables and produce and livestock sold/meat production.
… Target Market patrons will be downtown New Bern residents, business owners and employees during the week commuting home from work. The goal is to capture 10% of daily traffic on “Market Days”. The Market will draw from surrounding pedestrian neighborhoods including people living in the Greater Five Points Areas, New Bern Historic District and Ghent Neighborhoods (approximate 5,000 area population). (*Please note that populations have shifted due to Hurricane Florence flooding and it is difficult to project exact #s).
Weekly Market Draw: Individuals living in Jones, Craven and Pamlico counties, as well as, tourists traveling on Highway 70 headed to the Crystal Coast Beaches. Daily Market patrons targeted at 100 per day on average.
The farmers’ market will be self-sustaining. The City Market will have stall rental revenues (estimated total revenue @ $760 per week for the first 2 yrs.) as well as income from rental space for events and conferences. Some performance events will also charge a base fee. The City will continue to support the market with in-kind donations, and a board of producers will be responsible for managing and promoting it. When the Market is operating at full capacity, the City anticipates that Farmer’s Market rental fees generate approximately $1240 per week in income for the Market.
City Market is establishing a City Cafe as well as an Incubator Kitchen and Training Space located within the Market Complex. Market Café and Kitchen will serve agricultural producers, food product companies, caterers and food trucks, as well as students and instructors at the Volt Center. This model of clients will create jobs at the Cafe, and encourage entrepreneurial startups. Farmers will be able to sell directly to the Café and entrepreneurs operating there.
City Market farmers from Craven and surrounding counties will benefit from technical support and business assistance, as well as packaging, and marketing help with product line expansion. Meeting space included in kitchen design will serve as a training room for farmers and the public. Local vendor certification and Market training events geared toward vendors, and food handling classes will be conducted in the space. The Community is encouraged to use the space for education, as well as a central location for fundraisers and special events.
The City Market will create a first of its kind Incubator kitchen/restaurant to compliment the Farmer’s Market. The kitchen will serve as a instructional space for educational partnerships with Craven Community College, as well as local nonprofits. The Café space has been created, bathrooms installed. Grant funds awarded through grants from Golden Leaf Foundation and the EDA have enabled the City to “rough-in” plumbing, electrical, gas lines and grease trap. Outfitting the commercial kitchen space is still in process. Commercial Kitchen equipment and supplies are still needed. The dining space (indoor and on the porch) will seat 30 people focused primarily on lunch service.
Cooking classes and adult education space are also included in the kitchen design. Individual food lockers for bulk storage for entrepreneurial upstarts will be provided as well. Kitchen will be a certified USDA kitchen, and meet all standards set by the Craven County Health Department.
As per the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Eastern NC only lists two other incubator kitchens in the region; they are Burgaw Incubator Kitchen, Burgaw, N.C., and Eastern Carolina Food Ventures, Warsaw, N.C. The City Market’s kitchen will bring this innovation to Eastern N.C.
The City Market will create economic engines that will operate as profit-driven enterprises creating direct and indirect employment, and job creation through nonprofits, food trucks, and catering companies. Farmers seeking to create additional product lines can also increase personal revenue and create vertical sale opportunities.
Additional business incubation will be supported by a Maker Space that will also be located in the Café space for entrepreneurs developing prototypes and other innovative endeavors.
Direct positions created at the City Market would be 2 full time positions and 3 part time positions during Year 1 of operation. As the success of the City Market grows, positions once absorbed by the City of New Bern will be hired directly by kitchen revenues.
Indirect jobs for additional seasonal selling help in bays would be between 10 and 20 part time positions paid for by foundation grants and donations. Additional jobs can come from nonprofits such as Wash Away Unemployment, a nonprofit that seeks to train kitchen employees on safe serve and culinary arts.
Food trucks who need to use a USDA kitchen can create jobs by accessing the incubator kitchen. Start-up catering companies requiring commercial kitchen space will create culinary positions by using the kitchen for their events.
The Community encompassing the City of New Bern and surrounding counties will benefit from a meeting space located in the City Cafe.The Cafe will increase community cohesiveness by serving as a central meeting area. Hurricane Florence took its toll on the residents of New Bern, and many seek to rebuild and restore the amazing sense of community found in our small southern town. The City Cafe will create community cohesiveness allowing all income levels to gather together while supporting the great farmers and budding entrepreneurs of our area. Performance Measure
Performance measure #1 Point of Sales will be used to measure performance in the City Cafe. Performance Measure #2 Monthly vendor surveys will be taken asking to report sales for grant and performance review.
Performance Measure #3 Price strategy can be reviewed in Kitchen depending on sales, and marketing of Cafe.
The entire City Market site will focus on training, education and workforce development with a goal of improving the population’s job skills and improving quality of life. The City of New Bern in cooperation with its numerous community partners will establish educational opportunities and events that increase awareness of the region’s farming industry and the healthy foods it produces. City Market will become a community center that features an array of activities for all ages found through classes, events, and specialty dinners.
Develop adult education programs that enable current farmers and those entering the industry to continue to be on the cutting edge of this changing industry. Partnerships with NC Cooperative Extension, healthcare providers and CCC in this centrally located complex will insure that training and continuing education opportunities are easily accessible the greater New Bern community (City Market is within walking distance of more than 4,500 residents of the City of New Bern).
Grower and Farmer-focused certifications and education classes offered by NC Cooperative Extension such as training in the use of particular pesticides, will be available through City Market. These will be offered at the Volt Center classroom. Farmers will also be able to access classes on proper procedures for selling produce and other products in the Farmer’s Market environment adhering to sanitation and health standards. They will also have access to the Small Business Center with business classes offered through the Volt Center.
Well-trained hospitality workers are key to capturing eastern North Carolina’s tourism market. NC Cooperative Ext. will partner with City Market to offer workforce development classes geared to the hospitality industry. Serv safe classes will complement food preparation classes (food handling/food safety courses) offered by food safety specialists that will be taking place in the Market Kitchen. City Market has set a goal of 700 adults participating in some form of continuing education at the Market in 2020.
General education and enrichment includes events happening at the Marketplace and Café. Demos and tastings, hands on classes showcasing downtown Chefs, and workshops on various cooking styles will just be some of the offerings. Special events during Farmer’s Market hours will also be held to support farmers’ selling in the marketplace.
Youth Education includes:
Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Gardens (VEBCOG) in partnership with NC Cooperative Extension will conduct 4H programming to provide hands on experimental classes at the City Market. VEBCOG will have an activities calendar with monthly programs to increase the number and types of educational events. The site will bring agricultural opportunities to the market so that youth can engage and learn about the different types of farming practices.
“Give youth a chance to meet farmers at the City Market” will provide a targeted audience to introduce children and their families to an amazing array of produce not always offered in the average supermarket. Special events will offer opportunities for children and youth to meet and talk with farmers while parents buy directly from them gives farmers a better return for their produce.
Students will also be educated on farm animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets. Preschool children, school age children, and high school students will experience the excitement of tasting new, fresh colorful foods. Students will be introduced to farming and be entertained by special events focused to their appropriate age group.
City Market Summer day camps and field trip opportunities for area county schools (Craven, Pamlico, Jones, Carteret and Onslow) will also be planned.
The City Market Cafe and Kitchen will play a strong role in community educational opportunities hosting adult education events, culinary classes, and workshops showcasing the bounty of New Bern farmers and artisans. The Café features a training center where Safe Serv and food prep classes will take place. Partnering with NC Cooperative Extension to expand its availabilty of classes, the City Market Kitchen will offer Cooksmart/Eat Smart Classes. Monthly cooking classes featuring our downtown chefs will be offered using prepared items from the City Market. Product tastings, pop-up events, community dinners, and community supported agricultural programs will be held in the Market Kitchen. The Cafe seeks to make food feel like an adventure, and encourage new ideas in healthy meal planning for families. The Cafe will host classes including free and fee-based options.
… Performance measures will be assessed based on adult education initiatives vs. children and youth education. The number of certificates and credentials obtained through workforce development initiatives w/CCC, VEBCOG and NC Cooperative Extension will be tracked to determine numbers issued. The number of new workers trained will also be tracked.
Class instructors will provide curriculum for teachers and others bringing students to City Market. Reviewing the day with teachers, counselors, preschool instructors, and daycare teachers, students will be quizzed as to what was learned the day of the visit. Feedback from these educators will be sought by the Market Manager to learn how to improve programs. Classes filled quickly will be noted. Literature will be passed out so to encourage repeat visits with their guardians.
Currently there are waiting lists for Agriculture programs offered by the extension agency. These classes fill quickly with only 25 students able to attend. The City Market will increase frequency and class sizes and monitor attendance compared to Ag extension classes. Class graduations and credentials issued will be benchmarks for success.
… The goal is 700 adults educated in Year 1. Children and youth visiting the Market for educational events, school trips, etc. is also at 1,000 during Year 1.
Children living in disadvantaged neighborhoods within a one mile radius can visit the City Market, and discover fun activities, as well as learning about healthy food choices.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America will use the City Market as an opportunity to sell their products for fundraising activities.
Boys and Girls Club location is within walking distance to the City Market. Youth can explore the market activities for the day and participate in afterschool activities.
YMCA summer and after school programs can experience the City Market through educational activities, as well as day trip offered for Agri-tours to the farmer’s farms. YMCA is also located within a 2-mile radius.
10 Preschools are located within an 8-mile range, and activities offered after preschool for parents and their children can be a great way to encourage family togetherness.
West Craven High School has the Future Farmers of America program and can offer selling opportunities for their produce as fundraisers at the market.
4-H, classes will be offered by 4 H volunteers to bring all the wonderful programming into the city.
These classes have an attendance issue for disadvantaged youth due to the location of the classes.
This will allow wonderful agricultural programming to be available for all children.
… Adult educational programs will be tracked by class attendance, numbers of certificates awarded and jobs obtained as a result.
Survey distributed to parents whose children visited the market can inform the staff on how the programming was received. Staff can adjust length and content based on parents and school teachers surveys.
… CCC will track students completing workforce development training programs at City Market and then, ascertaining jobs to determine the success of adult education programs.
Before attending the City Market activities, instructors should prepare students as they would for a regular class. This gives the students areas to pay attention to when visiting the market. Age appropriate materials will be given to instructors. City market event director is especially interested in the data learned, and what captured the attention of the children. Improvements will be made as needed during monthly farm meetings.
How will data be collected? (For example: a survey, sign in sheet or financial records) The Market manager will work with his/her education partners (CCC, NC Cooperative Extension, CarolinaEast to capture this data. Surveys will be administered.
Field trips will be especially important to the education of children, and hopefully a repeat visits by parents. City Market staff will provide age appropriate worksheets and lectures before attending the City Market event. This will give the children and idea as to what they will be seeing and what they need to pay extra attention to once they are at the market. Feedback from instructors will be given in an email survey to City Market Manager. Manager then can make improvements on field trip events.
If the project is to continue beyond the grant period, describe how the project will continue to be funded and/or be self-sustaining.
The City Market will offer both free and fee-based classes to adults and children of all ages. Parents and guardians will be pay a fee associated with a few of the classes to cover costs. Grants and donations will cover scholarships for adults who meet financial criteria and disadvantaged youth to participate in classes.
Personnel Amount includes fringe benefits $45,500.00
Equipment Amount $130,350.00
Administration Amount $3,700.00
Capital Improvement Amount $5,000.00
Supplies Amount $16,267.50
City of New Bern Personnel
Economic Development Staff and Community Development Staff: Wages $28,750, Benefits $8625
3 Picnic Tables ADA Compliant Wheelchair Accessible: $2,658.54
4 Picnic Tables Square: $3,300
7 Patio/Cafe Umbrellas: $693
NCTTFC will be recognized as a supporter of the City Market Project on the City of New Bern, Veteran’s Employment Base Camp and the newly developed City Market websites. Press releases sent to local, as well as regional new media (tv and newspaper), social media posts and PSAs on public radio and other radio stations will also mention NCTTFC’s support. The City also has its own television station (Ch. 10 in New Bern) that airs public meetings and local event information. City Market will be promoted on that station.
City Market brochures promoting the Market will also include NCTTFC’s name and logo. 15,000 of these will be printed initially and will be distributed through Craven County TDA and State rest stops and visitor centers. Market bags may also be printed and will include NCTTFC’s logo.
PROJECTED IMPACTS BY ENDING DATE:
Total # Jobs Created (Permanent/Temporary) 7
Total # Jobs Sustained (Permanent/Temporary) 7
Number of Workers Re-Employed 10
Quota Holders Assisted 10
Current or Former Tobacco Farmers Assisted 10
Amount of New Income for Former Tobacco Workers $307,200
Number of Workers with Upgraded Skills 60
Persons Receiving Increased Educational Training 700
Total Number of People Served 12,000
Acres of Farmland Protected/Impacted 6,000
Volume of Product Produced/Distributed/Sold 30,000
Value of Product Produced/Distributed/Sold $217,192.00
Six months after it made landfall, Hurricane Florence’s impacts on New Bern’s economy are still being felt throughout the city, but a new development may delay full recovery for some time.
Hurricane-damaged DoubleTree Riverfront hotel is closed indefinitely over insurance coverage issues related to the hurricane. Downtown New Bern will continue to face its worst economic crisis since 2008-10, when access to downtown was crippled by a bridge replacement and road construction projects.
“Business is definitely down,” said Lynne Harakal, director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, said about Hurricane Florence recovery. “The best information I can provide is revenues are down about 15-20 percent since the hurricane. In retail, that’s a very large hit. Most small retailers have a profit margin of about 10 percent at the end of the year, so if these percentages continue many of our retailers could be in jeopardy.
“Not having the DoubleTree makes this situation even more ominous. Our downtown businesses need the DoubleTree operational. Furthermore, they need the Conventional Center up and running and a thriving Farmers Market to draw customers to our shops and restaurants.”
New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, a top venue for activities ranging from Marine Corps Birthday balls to corporate shareholder meetings, occupies about 3 acres of the downtown frontage on the banks of the Trent River.
The Convention Center was badly damaged during the hurricane, but is aiming to reopen in the fall. A big piece of its marketing plan has been the presence of a full-service hotel right next door—the DoubleTree Riverfront by Hilton.
Sources said there have already been two cancelled bookings at the Convention Center because of the DoubleTree being closed.
The Convention Center and DoubleTree Riverfront occupy a space previously known as Bicentennial Park and, before that, New Bern’s busy waterfront dating to the 1700s. More
Why does the DoubleTree matter? After all, there are two other hotels downtown, and several others elsewhere in the city.
DoubleTree Riverfront, with 171 rooms, is by far the city’s largest hotel. More importantly, it is New Bern’s only full-service hotel. A full-service hotel offers full service accommodations, an on-site restaurant, and personalized service, such as a concierge, room service, and clothes pressing staff.
The DoubleTree was the hotel Alpha in New Bern, occupying the premiere location along the Trent River between the Convention Center and the N.C. History Center.
Once a full-fledged Hilton and, before that, a Sheraton, the $12 million property in New Bern has been operating under Hilton’s DoubleTree flag for several years.
Singh Investment Group owns one other hotel property in North Carolina (all others are in Georgia), the DoubleTree Oceanfront by Hilton in Atlantic Beach. It, too, was severely damaged by Hurricane Florence and remains closed.
Singh Investment has not answered a request to be interviewed by New Bern Post, and local officials say they have not answered their inquiries since January.
In mid-February, the hotel’s general manager attended a Tourism Development Agency meeting and said that due to litigation with the hotel’s insurance carrier over whether it covered damage from wind-driven rain, the hotel might remain closed.
The hotel owners transferred the general manager and two weeks later laid off the entire staff except the sales manager and a couple of maintenance workers. The sales manager worked to cancel remaining bookings.
This puts downtown New Bern in a bad spot. Take the New Bern Grand Marina, for example. It is under separate ownership, but it partnered with DoubleTree to provide amenities to the marina including showers and laundry.
Then, of course, its impacts on Convention Center bookings, and a large hotel staff that has been laid off.
Then there are other effects. A vast, empty parking lot beside a large hotel is not a good indicator of a thriving downtown.
In short, it puts downtown growth and prosperity at serious risk.
Moreover, the longer DoubleTree remains closed, the harder it will be to bring it back into operation. The DoubleTree may very well go from being one of Downtown New Bern’s crown jewels, to a major liability.
It’s sort of like what the Days Hotel did in Five Points. The Days Hotel went from being in business to derelict to being razed over an eight-year span.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel, when asked what the city could do about the hotel, said, “Nothing. It’s private property.”
She equates DoubleTree with the beleaguered SkySail condominiums right next door to the DoubleTrees and the long-vacant Elks Building smack dab in the middle of Downtown New Bern. They, too, are major properties in the downtown that seek solutions and remain vacant or underutilized.
She said DoubleTree’s owners said they are not interested in selling the hotel, and continue to seek a resolution from the insurance carrier.
Meanwhile, the hotel has not reached the level of nuisance abatement, and is current on its taxes, which total just over $120,000 per year.
While it is true that the hotel is private property, current on taxes, and may not have reached a point where it is a public safety hazard, it is demonstrably true that a vacant and empty hotel has an adverse economic impact on the city.
Cities have used that argument to justify employing eminent domain, the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Whether the city has the stomach for that kind of nuclear option depends on how severe impacts become as the DoubleTree Riverfront remains closed.
The DoubleTree Riverfront by Hilton hotel in New Bern has been closed since Hurricane Florence in September 2018. Google Street View photo
Singh Investment Group is a privately held real estate investment and management firm based in Augusta, Georgia.
The company’s portfolio includes hotels, commercial, and residential developments. With 1,400 guest rooms, SIG has hotels ranging from limited service to full service properties operating under Hilton, Starwood, IHG, and Wyndham flags. With over 1,400 guest rooms, SIG sells itself as “a proven leader in hotel investment and operational management.”
In its Mission Statement, SIG seeks to implement efficient operational strategies that maximize financial performance in order to subsequently result in company growth. This objective is achieved through three key areas: Team Member Development, Exceptional Customer Satisfaction, and Disciplined Financial Management.
Singh Investment’s website includes a section called “Case Studies,” where it touts its successes. Ironically, the section is that the opening page is dominated by a panorama photo of New Bern’s DoubleTree Riverfront hotel.
Case studies shown on the SIG website include DoubleTree Oceanfront in Atlantic Beach. The main photo is of DoubleTree Riverfront in New Bern, which is not included in among the case studies.
The website does not include a case study about the New Bern hotel, but it does have one for DoubleTree Oceanfront in Atlantic Beach. Like New Bern’s DoubleTree, the Atlantic Beach hotel was damaged by Hurricane Florence and remains closed.
Except for hotels in New Bern and Atlantic Beach, all other SIG hotels are in Georgia.
A BSH forklift is unloaded at Craven Community College, to be used in a training program as the manufacturer ramps up its workforce.
BSH Home Appliances, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of home appliances, is expanding the workforce at its New Bern manufacturing and assembly lines to meet demands for its products.
Working in collaboration with Craven Community College (Craven CC) and Blue Arbor Staffing (BAS), BSH is seeking to add approximately 50 new employees to its current workforce.
Craven CC will offer a Manufacturing Career Pathway (MCP) program from March 11-April 11 to help train and screen potential employees. The MCP will be dedicated specifically to the initiative to enhance the success for individuals wanting to start a career with BSH.
This program will provide training in the following topics: Intro to Manufacturing, Forklift Operator Certificate, Lean Yellow Belt, OSHA 10-Hour Safety, Workplace Ethics and Intro to Microsoft Word. Students will also receive hands-on training with mock simulators.
Students who complete the program will work through BAS. BAS will arrange an interview between the candidate and BSH. Candidates chosen after the interview process will start in a temporary position and work toward permanent placement.
Craven CC offers MCP programs throughout the year that conclude with interviews from local manufacturers for potential direct-hire positions. At the conclusion of Craven CC’s last MCP class, 55% of the students were offered direct hire positions with local industries, 18 percent chose to further their education through Craven CC by enrolling in a trade program and 100 percent were asked to complete applications for potential employment through local employment agencies.
For additional information on the program, contact Eddie Foster, Craven CC executive director of environmental safety and corporate training, at 252-638-3919 or email@example.com. To register, contact Cat Johnson at 252-633-0857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buddy Bengel of Bengel Hospitality in New Bern received statewide recognition Monday evening at the 2019 Stars of the Industry Awards, hosted by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Bengel won the Ken Conrad Award for Service to the Community for his dedication to the people of New Bern and his willingness to go above and beyond in his position.
More than a dozen hospitality industry professionals from across the state were honored during the annual event, who were selected based on their exemplary service, leadership, innovation and dedication in the restaurant, lodging and hospitality industries.
Bengel on his Facebook page, said ” I am beyond humbled and honored” for the award.
When Hurricane Florence hit the coast, Bengel staged his mobile food unit in preparation to feed affected residents and volunteers, according to the group.
But Bengel did much more than that. He helped rescue people trapped by flooding and evacuate others in the path of the hurricane, and more.
Did you go by the new Harris Teeter since it opened on Wednesday? Odds are pretty good that you did.
In a small town like New Bern, folks here can be relied on to try something new. Remember when Cook Out opened?
On opening day, I saw city officials including Jeff Odham, in whose ward the new Harris Teeter is located, and City Manager Mark Stephens proudly roaming the vast floor space of the gleaming new store.
Coke Mann, a partner with Columbia Development Group, developer of the shopping center, was quoted in the Sun Journal crediting Odham and Mayor Dana Outlaw for their bringing the super-expanded HT to New Bern.
I saw lots of regular people combing through the almost 100,000-foot feet of shopping space, which is more than just a simple supermarket. (Some say the store actually has 105,000 square feet of floor space.)
We are not wedded to a particular grocery store. We shop at Publix most often, but not exclusively, and mainly due to its modern and wide selection coupled with its less crowded aisles.
With the opening of the new Harris Teeter, that may change.
The store replaces a 55,000-square-foot store on South Glenburnie Road, which closed the day before the new store opened.
It is claimed to be the largest Harris Teeter out of the chain’s 246 stores. Some media outlets have called it the largest in the world, but since its world is pretty much contained within Southern states, that’s a somewhat pretentious claim.
Still, it’s plenty big, and within it are sections that by themselves are impressively large.
There is a Starbucks inside the Harris Teeter, just as there was at the old location, but this one has a dining area that has to make this particular Starbucks one of the largest in the world, and that’s saying something.
Then there is the food court, contained within an area that could be a nice-size grocery store all by itself.
There is a bakery, fresh produce and meats, a deli, a sushi bar, a buffet, a burger bar, a specialty bar with changing themes, and a bar-bar. Yes, a bar … where you can get beer and wine by the glass.
As for the grocery aisles, they are so long they are subdivided, with a third row intersecting at the middle. Looking from one end toward the other, the aisles extend almost as far as the eye can see.
Filling all those aisles with merchandise must be a challenge by itself. I have not looked deeply into it, but the few places I did look showed a much-expanded variety of brands and varieties.
Staffing this store must be equally challenging. I counted six people working at the Starbucks counter, four at the burger bar, three at the beer and wine bar, and so on.
I am not sure if they staffed up for opening week or if they plan to maintain that staffing level.
Sarah, Mark and I went there on opening day and had dinner. We bought a couple of items from the grocery aisles before going home.
We returned on Saturday to find the same buzz one encounters when surrounded by hundreds of happy people. The store is large enough to accommodate a thousand customers without feeling overly crowded.
Sarah got several selections from the sushi train and described the quality as good as any restaurant in New Bern. I went for simple–a burger and fries. The way I figure it, if you can’t do a burger and fries right, then what can you do right?
And boy, did they do it right. It paired nicely with the glass of Mother Earth pale ale that I got at the bar.
While waiting for my order, I ran into four people I knew, and that’s the great thing about a venue like this. It’s a magnet that draws people together, and for more than one purpose.
Before, you would go to Harris Teeter for groceries. Maybe you might grab something from the salad bar or deli or the Starbucks counter, but there was really nothing that set it apart from any other modern grocery store.
This Harris Teeter is not just a retailer, it is a community amenity. You can literally spend the day there, enjoying a fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a couple of glasses of beer or wine later in the day before actually doing any grocery shopping.
Note: the beer and wine bar opens at 10 a.m. daily except Sundays, when it opens at 11 a.m. But who’s judging?
The parking lot is large and full but sufficient and well laid out. Other stores in the shopping center, which is called New Bern Marketplace, round out the remaining two-thirds of retail floor space at the 34-acre, 325,000-square-food retail venue.
One thing it has over Downtown New Bern: parking is not limited to two hours.
So what can you expect at the Teeter?
Greeting you as you arrive at one of the entrances is the floral counter managed by Mary Gierie-Merrell, who Mayor Outlaw has described as New Bern’s unofficial mayor.
At that same entrance, off to the right, is the Starbucks counter with its spacious and open dining area. It is equipped with tables and booths and two big-screen TVs. The window-wall is lined with a long counter with tall chairs for computer users and enough USB ports and electric sockets for every two chairs.
Beyond is the amazing food court, and to its left, the expansive grocery aisles.
One glitch was WiFi. Though it is provided, I was unable to connect to the internet using it. Another quibble is that if you want to sit at a table and plug in your device or computer to a power source, there are just two tables within range of just one wall socket, and they are right underneath a big-screen TV. That may be by design. It is understandable why a store would not want its tables taken up by people using computers all day.
The impacts of the new Harris Teeter on New Bern will be interesting to see.
It will undoubtedly cut into business of other existing grocery stores. But being so large, it will draw shoppers from outside New Bern and maybe from outside Craven County.
When the N.C. 43 connector is extended from U.S. 70 to U.S. 17 in the next few years, it will make access to New Bern Marketplace easier to reach from Pitt and Lenoir residents. It’s already the easiest retail center to reach in New Bern from Jones and Onslow counties.
As I said, this Harris Teeter is not just a store, it is a community amenity.
Harris Teeter’s previous largest stores, measuring at 80,000 square feet of store space, are located in Pinehurst and Charlotte.
The New Bern store is only the second location to have a juice bar.
It is the first to have a build-your-own burger bar.