The original plan for Craven Thirty included a large, robust area for commercial and light industrial development.
Remember back in2012, all the buzz about Craven Thirty? All that sweet, sweet new retail space, a multiplex theater, and new neighborhoods? You probably also remember how last year Craven Thirty morphed into West Craven, with less focus on business and more focus on residential.
Now, more than a year later, West Craven has emerged into the public eye again. Its developer, Weyerhaeuser NR Company, is asking for the city to enter into a development agreement. It is on the Board of Aldermen’s agenda for next Tuesday, when the board is expected to set a date for a public hearing.
And this latest version of West Craven looks a lot like the original Craven Thirty, but with even more commercial space.
The city entered into a development agreement with Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company in September 2010 for what was to become Craven Thirty. The city annexed the 550-acres Craven Thirty property in December 2012.
A ribbon cutting was conducted by then-Gov. Bev Perdue, and construction was announced to begin in spring 2013. Some streets were put in, along with other infrastructure, but nothing else was built during he intervening six years. Blame the economy.
The revised and renamed project would include just under 250 acres for residential development, just under 250 acres of commercial development, just over 47 acres for light industrial, and just over 27 acres of agriculture forestry district with low-density residential uses.
The plan calls for a total of 1,500 residential units phased in over 15 years, 500,000 square feet of non-residential space, a 150-room hotel sometime during the first five years, and 10 acres for a private school, also during the first five years.
The agreement establishes the development phasing sequences for the project, establishes a Master Development Plan and development review process that can accommodate the timing, phasing and flexibility of the project, coordinates the construction and design of infrastructure that will serve the project and the community at large, confirms the dedication and/or provision of public amenities by the developer, and provides assurances to the developer that it may proceed with the project in accordance with the approved original zoning and the terms of this agreement without encountering future changes in ordinances, regulations, technical standards or policies that would affect its ability to develop the relevant parcels under the approved zoning and the terms hereof.
The project will include small neighborhoods, a walkable village area, and connections to open space that will “support and reinforce the City of New Bern as an attractive place to live, work and recreate.” The size and scale of the project requires a long-term commitment of both public and private resources and requires careful integration between the programming of public capital facilities, the phasing of development and the development review and approval process.
The West Craven site is well suited for access from all parts of New Bern, or it will be. It is located at the intersection of U.S. 70 and the N.C. 43 connector. There are plans to extend the N.C. 43 connector from where it now ends just west of U.S. 70, all the way through to U.S. 17.
Learn How to Build Gingerbread House Class Oct. 19
Getting back to normal is the priority for New Bern following Hurricane Florence. The New Bern Historical Society’s Gingerbread House Contest is moving forward with just that in mind. Florence means there will be some adjustments; it means plan B, which in this case means Bring People Downtown. The imaginative gingerbread creations drew many to downtown windows last year and the Society is hoping for even more this year as merchants work hard to re-open.
Executive Director Mickey Miller said, “We invite everyone to enter the contest. Your creative baking and building will produce the wonderful pieces that will draw folks to the contest downtown. If you are among those who were blessed with less damage, please consider using your kitchen for this project.”
You may enter as individuals or teams in three categories: Youth, Adult and Professional. There will be prizes at each level and two additional prizes. One is the People’s Choice, voted on by the public. The other is the Nancy Chiles Heritage Award for the creation that best represents the theme “Historic New Bern Christmas.” This in memory of long-time Board member and avid Gingerbread supporter, Nancy Chiles. The first 50 who enter will receive a hand-crafted pottery ornament made by the Potters of New Bern Art & Wellness Center.
If you are interested in building a gingerbread house, but are unsure of your skills, you are in luck. The Society will be presenting a “Building a Gingerbread House” class on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Craven Community College. It will leave you with all the skills and information you need to build your own creation. Registration fee is $10 which will go to support the Gingerbread prizes.
The mission of the New Bern Historical Society is to celebrate and promote New Bern and its heritage through events and education. Offices are located in the historic Attmore Oliver House at 511 Broad St. in New Bern. For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go www.NewBernHistorical.org or www.facebook.com/NewBernHistoricalSociety.
Aerial photo provided by the City of New Bern shows Martin Marietta Park in the foreground.
The City of New Bern will receive $475,000 to begin Phase I of Martin Marietta Park located on S. Glenburnie Road. This funding will help kick off creation of the city’s largest ever park.
The Governor’s Office released a list of 27 parks and recreation projects across the state that will receive funding through the NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund, including Martin Marietta Park.
New Bern Parks & Recreation staff applied for the NC PARTF grant in May and learned last week that the City would be awarded funding. The money will be used to install a children’s playground, boat launch, fishing pier, picnic shelter, park benches, multi-purpose trails, nature trail, and nature observation deck.
The funds will also be used to create gravel parking lots, improve road conditions throughout the park, and purchase appropriate park signage. General site preparation and supportive utility work are included in the grant funding.
“This is a big step toward the development of Martin Marietta Park,” Foster Hughes, director of Parks & Recreation for the City of New Bern, said in a prepared statement. “This park is a valuable asset to the City and this grant will help us enhance residents and visitors ability to enjoy recreational amenities across nearly 900 acres of land and lakes.” The City anticipates construction will begin in January 2019.
Last September, Martin Marietta donated approximately 55 acres along South Glenburnie Road to the City of New Bern with the recommendation that the land be used to create a regional park. The additional acreage completed a contiguous stretch of land totaling 888 acres owned by the City of New Bern.
In the spring of 2018, the City invited public comment on proposed amenities residents would like to see inside the park. Those surveys and comments were collected and analyzed by independent consultant McGill & Associates, which assisted the City in creating a master plan for the park.
In April, the Board of Aldermen approved moving forward with the master plan which includes walking, running and cycling paths and trails, an outdoor performance area, open space for recreation and environmental stewardship, water activities and adventure activities.
The city inched forward in a process that could lead to an 80-unit apartment complex off Carolina Avenue that would house some Trent Court residents to enable the New Bern Housing Authority to begin razing and replacing buildings in Trent Court.
The Housing Authority has offered $200,000 for an 8-acre parcel off Carolina Avenue, which is off Trent Road.
The Carolina Avenue property sought for purchase by the New Bern Housing Authority is shown boxed in yellow. The Pembroke Community is above and to the right of the lake shown in this aerial view.
Aldermen voted 6-1 to have the parcel appraised, a non-committal way of keeping the concept alive without actually approving it. Baby steps … baby steps.
The motion was made by Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham and seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster. What’s interesting about that is its break from tradition. Often a motion is made by the alderman in whose ward a project is located.
Carolina Avenue is in Alderwoman Jameesha Harris’s Ward 2, but Harris has opposed the proposed property sale and building project, echoing strong opposition from residents of the nearby Pembroke neighborhood.
Pembroke residents have opposed the idea of Trent Court residents moving near their community, fearing that doing so would bring Trent Court problems to Pembroke.
The Carolina Avenue is near Pembroke, although there is no direct access between the two locations.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney, left, and Housing Authority Board Member Joseph Anderson speak to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. Randy Foster/Post
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney in a previous interview with the Post said there had been a lengthy search for a property suitable for a 80-unit apartment complex that would qualify for low income tax credits. The credits are awarded competitively, once a year. Higher scores go to projects that are close to shopping, far from microwave transmitters and railroad tracks, as well as several other factors.
The project must also fit the Housing Authority’s budget.
A search of the New Bern area turned up no suitable leads until it stumbled across the Carolina Avenue property, which is owned by the city. It scored highly on all the requirements, so Blaney approached the city to inquire about a sale.
That’s where Harris entered the picture, along with residents of the Pembroke Community. Following several community meetings in Pembroke, representatives appeared before the Board of Aldermen during the early July meeting to oppose the Carolina Avenue project.
Harris has been outspoken about the proposal, previously calling it “gentrification. Although she opposed even an appraisal of the property, she was less vigorous in her opposition during Tuesday’s meeting.
But if anyone was waiting for her to make any motion that would move the process forward, they were in for a long wait. That’s when Odham stepped in, making the motion for the appraisal.
The plan to raze and replace Trent Court is part of a larger Greater Five Points Transformation Plan that was released in 2016. Recommendations in the plan have already been implemented in the Craven Terrace neighborhood, which is also a Housing Authority project.
Many of Trent Court’s pre- and post-World War II buildings are located in a Lawson Creek flood zone. No more money will be put into repairing the buildings the next time flooding occurs, thus the Housing Authority is under the gun to move forward with the plan.
The plan calls for replacing dilapidated buildings and replacing them with townhouse-style apartments catering to mixed income levels. Areas directly in the flood zone would be turned into parkland and open space.
A representative of the development company that won the contract to rebuild Trent Court listens to Tuesday’s discussion about Carolina Avenue. Randy Foster/Post
City Laundry, New Bern’s quirky foodie/coffee/wine/beer/live entertainment venue on Pollock Street, is closing on April 30, according to a Facebook post.
Here is the post:
“It has been a wonderful ride, but we will close our doors on April 30th. We want to invite everyone to come say goodbye at any of our upcoming events (we have event pages for all of them). You can call us or message us here for a reservation to any of our last events. 252-876-7007. New Bern has been great to us, we thank you all for your support!”
Ordinary Women of Extraordinary Deeds: Teisha Glover as Sarah Dudley Pettey, Carol Becton as Charlotte Rhone, Nelda Coates as Kady Brownell, Cinda Hill as Dr. Lula Disosway, and Pat Mora-Coxe as Bayard Wootten. Contributed photo
Historical Society’s previously sold out Women’s History Month Event will repeat
An encore presentation of Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Deeds will be presented at the Craven County Library on Johnson Street at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 22. This event was so overwhelmingly popular that the New Bern Historical Society is bringing it back by popular demand.
This program features a visit from five remarkable women from New Bern’s past. Some will be familiar, others may surprise you. From the 19th and early 20th centuries, and varied walks of life, these women have fascinating stories that you’ll want to hear:
Kady Brownell, a Civil War soldier
Activist Sarah Dudley Pettey
Physician Lula Disosway
Photographer Bayard Wootten
Nurse and businesswoman Charlotte Rhone
These characters will tell you how, while they considered themselves ordinary women, they left an extraordinary legacy in New Bern. Five local actors, under the direction of Jane Maulucci, will portray these women. No reservation is required for this free event, but early arrival is strongly recommended.
Executive Director, Mickey Miller said, “As we discussed these remarkable women we knew it would be a wonderful program, but we were amazed that it sold out two weeks ahead of time. Don’t miss this second opportunity, make plans to arrive early!”
The mission of the New Bern Historical Society is to celebrate and promote New Bern and its heritage through events and education. Offices are located in the historic Attmore-Oliver House at 511 Broad Street in New Bern. For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go www.NewBernHistorical.org or www.facebook.com/NewBernHistoricalSociety.
New Bern Parks & Recreation is celebrating several new additions to its Little Free Library (LFL) program.
On Saturday, April 7 at 10 a.m. at Seth West Parrot Park, 1225 Pinetree Drive, the city will open its newest pop-up library. This event kicks off a week-long celebration of National Library Week, April 8-14, the city announced in a news release.
Little Free Library is a global nonprofit organization. According to its website, its mission is to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. The idea behind the program is simple: communities, churches, businesses or other organizations build a sturdy library box in a convenient location, identify a steward or sponsor of the box, and oversee its maintenance. Then, the public is invited to “take a book, leave a book” without worrying about having access to a library or paying for overdue book returns. The program is popular in tourist locales, recreational neighborhoods, waterfront communities, parks, and cities and towns with growing families.
New Bern has two LFLs. One is located at Union Point Park and the other at West New Bern Presbyterian Church on Lucerne Way. The Union Point Park library box fell into disrepair over the years and was recently refurbished. Now, it’ll be joined by a brand new LFL so that the park will have a box for kids and a box for adults.
Four other Little Free Library boxes are also popping up around the city: Seth West Parrot Park at Kidsville (1225 Pinetree Drive), the New Bern Police Department (601 George St.), Pleasant Hill Park (427 Highway 55 West), and Stanley White Recreation Center (901 Chapman St.).
All are welcome at the Saturday event, especially parents, families and kids. Children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite book character and to bring a new or gently used book to help stuff the Little Free Library. Kids will go home with a special goody bag while supplies last. You can also have your picture taken with Booker the Bear and paint a friendship rock to add to the rock garden at the base of the LFL! In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held inside West New Bern Recreation Center, adjacent to Kidsville.
New Bern Parks & Recreation has partnered with the Friends of the New Bern Craven County Library to open these Little Free Libraries. The partnership brought several volunteers and businesses together to construct the new library boxes, paint them, and supply an initial set of books. Parks & Rec and Friends of the Library give credit to Shop Class, New Bern Historical Society, Garris-Evans Lumber, Mitchell Hardware, Precision Moulding & Woodwork Company, R.E. Bengel Sheet Metal Company, and Community Artists Gallery & Studios, Inc. Also, the Sun Journal donated five recycled newspaper boxes to use as LFLs.
Interested in sponsoring a Little Free Library? Kits can be purchased from the organization’s website, custom built, or repurposed from other materials. Businesses or organizations who sponsor one must identify a steward to maintain the box and replenish the book supply when it gets low. Before placing a little free library within city limits, please contact our Development Services office at 252-639-7580.
Eagle Scouts work on previous Battlefield Park project. Submitted photo
Since 1996, the Civil War Trust has sponsored Park Day, an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812 battlefields and historic sites take on maintenance projects large and small.
This year on April 7 New Bern’s Battlefield Park will join in this national event. While our beautiful park reflects the work of many volunteers from Battlefield Guides clearing trails, to Boy Scouts building observation platforms to Marines building bridges, there is always much to be done.
Jon Miller, Battlefield Manager hopes volunteers will help clear out the original Civil War fighting positions and do some general spring cleaning.
“While we expect this to be a work day, we also expect it to be a fun day,” he said.
The first 45 volunteers will receive a T-shirt commemorating the day. Hot dogs and drinks will be provided by Event Sponsor Gibbs Dentistry.
New Bern Historical Society Executive Director Mickey Miller said, “We are thrilled to be joining the Civil War Trust’s national effort to preserve battlefields as a part of our historic fabric. But you don’t have to stay and work; just come to learn more about this historic treasure.”
Volunteers are asked to arrive at the park at 10 a.m. The day will begin with a short tour of the battlefield before working.Bring work gloves and a rake if you can; a limited number of gloves will be available. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing appropriate for weather forecast.
New Bern Battlefield Park is located at the entrance to the Taberna subdivision off U.S. 70 at 300 Battlefield Trail, New Bern.
Everyone is welcome.Individuals or groups can volunteer.Scout groups, church groups, school groups and clubs have all helped out at the park in the past.
The Historical Society owns and maintains the park, and encourages everyone to come out and enjoy the day.The park recently expanded the history walk with a $250,000 upgrade to trails and interpretive signage.The gateway plaza was added featuring a 20 foot in-ground concrete map displaying the battle area and noting the locations and actions of all the units that took part in the Battle of New Bern. All of this was done by private funds.The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
The New Bern Historical Society celebrates and promotes New Bern and its heritage through events and education. Offices are located in the historic Attmore Oliver House at 511 Broad St. in New Bern. For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go its website or Facebook page.
The City of New Bern is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity of Craven County and Garris Evans for the third year of Paint Your Heart Out New Bern!
Paint Your Heart Out New Bern is an annual volunteer-based program where local private and public partners provide free painting and cosmetic repairs to low-moderate income, elderly, and disabled homeowners within the community. Eligibility requirements for homeowners are listed below.
Own and live in the home as primary residence
Be physically or financially unable to complete the work
Homes selected must be located within New Bern City limits
The home must be in NEED of repair to improve its appearance
If your home is selected someone from your household or an authorized representative must be present while work is being done. Work is scheduled for the week of June 11-16.
For more information about applying for help or volunteering, contact Deedra Durocher, Habitat for Humanity, at 252-633-9599 or Landa Gaskins, City of New Bern Development Services, at 252-639-7586.
Now that the Craven Terrace low-income housing project has been outsourced, downsized, and renovated, the New Bern Housing Authority is turning its sights on what to do about Trent Court.
In a memo to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (members listed here), Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney said the agency is going to apply for a 9 percent low-income housing tax credit from the N.C, Housing Finance Agency, but first must “secure site control of an eligible and competitive location.”
The “competitive location” would be used to build new low-income housing to add to, and in some cases replace, housing stocks in Trent Court.
As of now, that competitive location is a 30.8-acre, city-owned property off Carolina Avenue between the Pembroke Community, Trent Road and U.S. 70 (maps, left and below left).
The parcel is more than twice the 14 acres the Housing Authority owns that includes Trent Court, New Bern Tower, and numerous other residential structures, although, according to Housing Authority Commissioner Bill Frederick, only 9.7 acres are not subject to flooding and would be usable for housing.
Google Maps close-up shows the location of the Carolina Avenue property.
Little has been discussed publicly about the Housing Authority’s plans for Trent Court over the past seven years, while at the same time it was privatizing and renovating Craven Terrace, a larger housing project located north of Broad Street.
Craven Terrace was quickly identified as an area worth preserving for public housing, mainly because of its lack of market potential. Surrounded by small parcels with low property values, Craven Terrace is much larger than Trent Court and presented a bigger problem in terms of relocating residents there.
In the end, the Housing Authority secured historic status for the buildings in Craven Terrace, which in turn allowed for tax credits that helped pay for renovations, razing several buildings subject to flooding, and adding amenities including a playground and laundry facility. The Housing Authority also outsourced management of Craven Terrace.
Trent Court is less than half the size of Craven Terrace in acreage and number of residents. But more importantly, its proximity to Tryon Palace, the Historic Downtown District, and a navigable waterway make it much more commercially attractive for would-be developers.
The 30-acre Carolina Avenue property is wooded and undeveloped. It stretches from the lower left center to the upper right corner of this picture. Google Maps photo
Enter Carolina Avenue. The largest single undeveloped parcel owned by the city at more than 30 acres, it is not included on the city’s surplus properties for sale website. Wooded without any buildings, it is unique in New Bern in that it is both a waterfront property (there’s a small lake formed when N.C. DOT quarried dirt and gravel to build the U.S. 70 bypass) and has access to Trent Road.
Still, due to the wetlands, only a third is developable.
Housing Authority officials have been quietly approaching city officials, the Board of Aldermen, and the Pembroke Community about acquiring the Carolina Avenue property for subsidized and low-income housing.
“The NBHA bid was $200,000,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
“Initial discussions with the city were promising,” Blaney said in his memo. “However, more recent discussions have been frustrating with aldermen indicating they would be willing to ‘swap’ the Carolina Avenue site for complete control of the Trent Court property. This was not acceptable. Also, our offer to simply purchase the land was rejected before a bid could be submitted.”
When Blaney refers to promising initial discussions, he’s mainly referring to when E.T. Mitchell, a wealthy appointee to the Board of Aldermen who is now running for county commissioner, was on the board and heard the proposal. (Mitchell was also instrumental in developing and executing plans for Craven Terrace and was a Housing Authority commission member for a time.)
When Blaney refers to more recent frustrating discussions, he’s referring to Ward 2 Alderman Jameesha Harris, who has reservations about the plan and who called it “gentrification” in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Her ward includes the Pembroke community as well as the Carolina Avenue property the Housing Authority is interested in.
The plan has a lot of moving parts but boils down to this: The Housing Authority wants the Carolina Avenue property so it can secure funding to build affordable housing there. It would then move residents of Trent Court and others living on Housing Authority land in that area to the new housing off Carolina Avenue. That would enable the Housing Authority to raze many if not all of Trent Court’s buildings and replace them with a mixed-income residential development that it would still manage, either directly or indirectly.
It would involve moving low-income residents from Trent Court, ostensibly on a temporary basis, and moving them to housing to be constructed on Carolina Avenue adjacent to the Pembroke community. Once a new and improved Trent Court emerges, former residents would be given the opportunity to move back if housing is available.
“The proposal made to Ms. Harris was that the city donate the property to NBHA, freeing up our proposed $200,000 bid to rehabilitate the Taylor Building in Trent Court as a permanent home for the Boys & Girls Club,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
As it appears now, what would be built where Trent Court exists now would be a mix of high-, middle- and low-end housing and subsidized housing. The Housing Authority plans to leave a waterfront green space between Walt Bellamy Drive and Lawson Creek, and according to a source, that waterfront property is what the Housing Authority is willing to trade to the city for the Carolina Avenue acreage.
Trent Court and Carolina Avenue Compared
Trent Court area
30.81 undeveloped but mostly wetland
Tax value per acre
One problem with Trent Court is that the next time it floods in that area, affected buildings will have to be vacated and razed. No more money will be spent to bring them back to habitability. That puts a gun to the Housing Authority’s head to find substitute housing quickly.
“This is a complicated matter practically and politically,” Blaney said in his his memo. “Strategies such as improving Trent Court, seeking other land, approaching aldermen, public relations, etc., need to be devised.”
He said in his memo that he has spoken with three Pembroke residents about the proposal. “Two of the three indicated that my explanation was not exactly as an earlier one given by their alderman. They still expressed misgivings, however.
“I expect to be invited to the next Pembroke Residents’ Association meeting in early April. My belief is that if we disagree, at least let us disagree based on honest fact.”
Blaney has scheduled an interview with the Post on Tuesday morning to provide further information about this issue.
Facing opposition from Alderman Harris, proponents of the plan have attempted to sweeten the pot in an effort to gain her support, including promises for a new Boys & Girls Club location and public works improvements in her ward, she told the Post.
Harris, who represents the Pembroke Community as part of her ward, released Blaney’s memo on her alderman Facebook page on Thursday evening and explained her involvement in the plan.
“I was invited to a meeting to talk about the city possibly donating a very big plot of land that is located in my ward in Pembroke,” Harris said on her alderman Facebook page. “They also wanted us to pay the cost of demolition of some Trent Court Buildings and they would in return give the city some waterfront wetlands.
“It was stated that they wanted to relocate Trent Court Residents to the property they would build in Pembroke area but also give them a right to come back to the Trent Court area after they rebuild new homes and condos.”
Harris said she didn’t agree with the plan and said it sounded like a case of gentrification (although she also said she would support the deal if the Housing Authority paid full price for the Carolina Avenue property).
“Then I was asked to a second meeting but this time they added the Boys & Girls Club into to the mix,” Harris said. “Basically what I got out of the meeting is, we would help the Boys & Girls Club if the city once again provides the big plot of land in Pembroke. At this meeting, I personally made it clear that I am not in favor of any deal.
“I have never given misleading information,” she wrote, referring to Blaney’s memo describing his version of the plan as different from hers. “I never stated that the city wants control over the property and I simply stated that I would only vote yes if full price was offered for the land.
“I am doing the job that I was voted into office to do. I refuse to be a ‘Yes Man’! If I don’t like the idea and I ask my constituents about the idea and they don’t like it as well, then leave it alone.”
Commissioner Frederick said he was not aware of any request for the city to pay for any demolition in Trent Court, or any promises to pay for public works projects in her ward.
The popular Harry Goodman Battlefield Adventure Day for children is Saturday, March 24 at New Bern Battlefield Park.
A day full of learning activities, period games and living history, it is held annually at the park, which has been recently upgraded by the New Bern Historical Society. The event is for boys and girls ages 6-12 years old and an adult. Check-in begins at 11:30 a.m. with activities from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Young recruits and their parents will be greeted by re-enactors from the 5th N.C. Regiment, the 7th N.C. Regiment and artillery from McCullough Living History. The newly “enlisted” recruits can choose to participate in practice drills or Civil War period activities and crafts. They will also take part in Civil War era games.
Historical Society battlefield guides will provide an informative and entertaining walking tour of the battlefield. A commissary lunch, provided by Moore’s Olde Tyme Barbeque will be served to each young recruit and adult. After lunch, the day’s activities will conclude with a battle re-enactment that includes the children.
Cost is $10 for one child with accompanying adult, plus $5 for each additional child or adult, with a $20 maximum for a family. Special price for active duty military and families qualifying for free/reduced school lunch program.
For more information or to register, call New Bern Historical Society at 252-638-8558 or go register online.
New Bern Battlefield Park is located off U.S. 70 at the entrance to the Taberna subdivision at 300 Battlefield Trail. This program is supported through the generosity of the family of Harry K. Goodman, who was key to the preservation and restoration of the Battlefield Park.
The mission of the New Bern Historical Society is to celebrate and promote New Bern and its heritage through events and education. Offices are located in the historic Attmore Oliver House at 511 Broad St. in New Bern. For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go www.NewBernHistorical.org or www.facebook.com/NewBernHistoricalSociety
The late Steve Jobs is often touted as one of the great innovators of the age, but his real genius was in taking ideas from others, tweaking them, and selling them.
Jobs didn’t invent the computer mouse, smart phone or the MP3 player, for example; others came up with those ideas, but his tweaks changed everything.
Taking cues from Steve Jobs, the City of New Bern has gone into he business of taking others ideas, as well.
For example, take the Farmer’s Market.
For $1 per year, the Farmers Market was leasing city-owned land at South Front and Hancock streets coveted by developers. Everyone was happy, the Farmers Market thrived, and neighboring businesses enjoyed the extra foot traffic Farmer’s Market attracted.
Meanwhile, the city was saddled with a blighted piece of property off First Street zoned for heavy commercial use that it will never be able to sell because of decades of accumulated pollutants from the power plant that once stood there.
On a tear to unload surplus property, here was one property the city could not unload, so it sought alternatives.
City officials thought they could kill two birds with one stone. They approached Farmers Market leaders about moving to the First Street power plant property, a concept called City Market. Moving Farmer’s Market would free up city-owned land it could sell, and put to use city-owned property the city could not sell.
Farmers Market board members didn’t like the idea. They are doing well where they are and the rent they paid to the city for the property was almost nothing. Also, the present location brings in casual visitors who are downtown for other reasons.
Downtown businesses didn’t like the idea, either. They see Farmers Market as an additional attraction that fills restaurants and shops with customers on mornings when the Farmers Market is open.
At the moment, almost nobody goes to the old power plant, and other than Lawson Creek Park across the road, there is nothing else for people to do in that section of town.
It started to get ugly, as things often do when one opposes City Hall. There were veiled threats of eviction countered by a petition that gathered 15,400 signatures from people opposed to the Farmer’s Market moving.
At some point city officials realized that the Farmer’s Market had an ace up its sleeve: Although its lease with the city was about to expire, it had the option to extend it for one more year. That would have put the city in the awkward position of evicting a beloved downtown institution right in time for the 2017 municipal elections.
The city backed off. Rather than let a squabble with Farmers Market and downtown merchants drive the 2017 municipal elections, the city was forced into another lease. This time, however, it increased the rent from $1 a year to $500 per month.
The idea seemed to wither away. There was no further public discussion about outdoor vendor sales at the old power plant property. But meanwhile, city officials worked out a deal for Craven Community College to use the First Street main building for vocational classes, calling it the Volt Center (a nod to the building’s past as an electric plant).
Then on Feb. 13, the City Market plan sprang forth once more. The city is now seeking grant funding to help pay for outdoor vending areas, a market, a commercial kitchen accelerator, and an inventor’s space.
As city director of Development Services Jeff Ruggieri said, the idea never went away. But now, rather than forcing the Farmer’s Market to move, the city now looks poised to go in head-to-head competition with the Farmer’s Market.
It’s an odd thing, the city trying to compete with an existing commercial operation. Alderman Jeffrey Odham has said he wanted to run the city more like a business, but this? Start a business? One that competes with existing businesses?
And it’s not the only one.
In January, a private artists group approached the city seeking approval to rent the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street.
A little background on that: after he became mayor, Dana Outlaw began a push to unload as much surplus city property as possible. The Hancock Street museum property was on the list, and the city gave the bum’s rush to the Firemen’s Museum, forcing it to rush fundraising efforts to pay for renovations of the old Broad Street Fire House so the museum could move there.
Outlaw and city staff envisioned selling the old museum site on Hancock Street, but when bids came in, they didn’t meet minimum requirements. The building is a fairly large commercial space suitable for a restaurant or even a microbrewery, but there’s a problem: it has no parking.
True, there’s a city-owned parking lot right next to it, but the downtown parking plan calls for the city to reduce the number of leased spaces, not increase the number. And the city parking lot at New and Hancock streets is a pretty important component to the city’s master parking plan.
So, like the old power plant on First Street, the city found itself with a substantial piece of real estate that is virtually unsellable.
It makes one wonder whether city officials do any research into these things before jumping in.
Back to the artists’ group. It had lost its existing location and was basically homeless and in a bind. They thought that perhaps they could rent the Hancock Street property from the city for, say, $500 a month — the same thing Farmer’s Market was paying for its piece of prime real estate.
Good idea, Mayor Outlaw said. More research is needed. Could be the city would pay them, rather than the other way around.
But that’s not how it turned out.
Meetings were held and the city came back with a plan: The city Parks and Recreation Department would open up its own art gallery and artist space at the old Firemen’s Museum — and make money doing it.
That private artists group? Still homeless, although they are welcome to apply to use the city-owned, city-run artists gallery along with everyone else.
So, yeah, those are two examples of the city shouldering its way into areas previously the domain of private groups.
A little bit sneaky, a little big underhanded. But unlike Steve Jobs, who bought or stole proven, successful ideas and made them better, the city still has to prove whether it is any good at running an outdoor market and an artists gallery, both of which have existing and entrenched competition in the city.
But, paraphrasing a line from Steve Jobs when he would announce new products, in the sneaky, underhanded department, that’s not all.
City Market is a triangular piece of property, with the Ghent neighborhood on one side, a mixed residential-commercial street on one side, and Country Club Road/First Street on the remaining side.
City Hall is giving that section of the city a lot of love and attention recently. Lawson Creek Park is right there and has benefited from a lot of improvements: a reconfigured and beautified entrance, a ball field, and more.
The city moved its Parks and Recreation offices to a building off Country Club Road, and is seeking funding to improve boat access there.
And it has worked with the state to reconfigure Country Club Road/First Street from four ugly, unsafe, ugly lanes of traffic, to two beautiful, safe, beautiful lanes of traffic with a center turn lane, bike lanes on both sides, and broad sidewalks stretching from Broad Street/Neuse Boulevard all the way to Pembroke Avenue.
Because that stretch of street is actually part of N.C. Highway 55, the state is paying for the improvements with a couple of small conditions: the city has to take care of moving street side utilities, for example. Oh, and the city can’t put the entrance to City Market on First Street.
Seems like a pretty small thing for the state to worry about, but the reasoning is sound: the entrance would be close to a blind curve and too close to the onramps and offramps at U.S. 70.
That means the entrance to City Market will have to be behind it, on Rhem Street (not to be confused with nearby Rhem Avenue).
Shouldn’t be a problem. The city gas station is there, but it is going to move it.
But if state Department of Transportation engineers take a close look at what the city has in mind, they’ll find that it’s a much worse option than a City Market entrance on First Street.
Rhem Street and the entrance to Lawson Creek Park form a four-way intersection with Country Club Road. There’s that same blind curve that DOT was worried about in one direction, and it’s even closer to the U.S. 70 offramps and onramps than a First Street entrance to City Market.
With traffic throttled from four lanes to two lanes after the street is reconfigured, traffic at that intersection is going to get very cosy. Many motorists will opt to reach City Market from the other direction, turning on to Second Street from Trent Boulevard.
Oh, but wait. Second Street is where Ghent Neighborhood residents have been complaining about heavy traffic (an average of 1,500 cars per day on a four-block, two-lane residential street). Full disclosure: I live off Second Street.
Second Street is an example an exasperated City Manager Mark Stephans sidesteps by pointing to all the things the city — no, he himself — has done for the Ghent neighborhood to address speeders on Spencer Avenue. (Ignoring complaints about speeders on Park Avenue.)
Referring to Second Street, Stephans said the city has moved its warehouse and will be moving its filling station, so that should be enough to satisfy the Ghent neighborhood. He says it as if they have gone to so much trouble, but they were doing it anyway.
What he’s not saying, and this is where “sneaky and underhanded” comes in, is that Second Street at Trent Boulevard is going to become a major access point to City Market.
Now let’s put this in perspective. If a private company were to propose putting a high-use business where the city plans to put City Market, say a hotel, the city planning department would be all over the developer to deal with traffic issues.
But the city is not a private company. It is free to ignore any issues its projects cause on surrounding properties.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
I’ve been wondering for some time why City Hall is so resistant to solving the high traffic problem on Second Street. When Alderman Sabrina Bengel suggested that Second Street be blocked at Trent Boulevard, city staff dug in its heels.
Whatever reasons city officials give against closing Second Street or reconfiguring it to reduce traffic, the real reason has been lurking in the dark for well over a year.
City Hall doesn’t want to decrease traffic from 1,500 cars a day. City Hall wants to increase traffic even further.
The City of New Bern is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity of Craven County and Garris Evans for the third year of Paint Your Heart Out New Bern!
Paint Your Heart Out New Bern is an annual volunteer-based program where local private and public partners provide free painting and cosmetic repairs to low- to moderate-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners within the community. And if you’d like to volunteer as part of a paint/repair crew, contact us today!
Eligibility requirements for homeowners are:
Own and live in the home as primary residence
Be physically or financially unable to complete the work
Homes selected must be located within New Bern City limits
The home must be in NEED of repair to improve its appearance
If your home is selected someone from your household or an authorized representative must be present while work is being done. Work is scheduled for the week of June 11-16.
For more information, contact Deedra Durocher, Habitat for Humanity, at 252-633-9599, or Landa Gaskins, City of New Bern Development Services, at 252-639-7586.
Photo: The city has a lot of properties for sale: 92 are listed on the city’s website. Of those, more than 70 are located in the Greater Duffyfield area. (City of New Bern map)
It’s an unrelenting list of failed dreams: Greater Duffyfield homes and buildings in disrepair, ordered torn down by the city and later sold off at dimes on the dollar.
It’s a tragedy on a personal scale for the families who are losing their properties, but in the broader picture, it’s costing taxpayers money — a lot of it.
Just this week, buildings facing city-ordered demolition were put to votes by the Board of Aldermen for 1127 H Street, 725-727 West Street, and 1607-09 Dillahunt Street.
At the same meeting, vacant lots where houses were ordered razed by the city were sold at foreclosure auctions in which there was just one bidder: 1111 Williams St. and 1112 Grace St. (adjacent lots sold separately to the same person).
All five properties are located in the Greater Duffyfield section of New Bern, a predominantly African-American neighborhood. In fact, more than three-quarters of the city’s surplus properties are in that part of New Bern, virtually all of which were obtained through foreclosures.
Aldermen breezed through the four of the five in rapid succession on Tuesday, save for no-votes by aldermen Sabrina Bengel and Bobby Aster, who have raised concerns that the city’s process for selling surplus property is costing the city money and misses opportunities for better options.
But the voting process stalled entirely on the fifth and final property. More on that in a bit.
The demolition order is just the midway point. If the city later sells one of these properties, it is the culmination of a years-long process that started when a declining building first came to the city’s attention.
The same process was used on a much larger scale with the former Days Hotel at Five Points, which was razed summer of 2017 under city order.
The city fronts the money for the demolition, placing liens on the properties until the bills are paid, which is often never. In those cases, the city forecloses and then lists the properties for sale.
Then it waits for bids of at least 25 percent of the tax value of the property. If bids come in, the city advertises for upset bids. The high bids are often far less than the tax value of the properties, and fall far short of paying the city’s and county’s expenses.
The process can take years, and the city has a lot of properties for sale: 92 are listed on the city’s website.
The problem is two-fold: One, the minimum bid of 25 percent does not take into account how much local government has spent on the property or back taxes. Two, many of these properties aren’t even worth the tax value.
Take 725-727 West St., for example. The building there came to the city’s attention following a complaint filed in June 2010. A warning letter was sent by certified and regular mail to the owner a month later. A fire further damaged the building in June 2012. A minimum housing hearing was held in April 2013, and the owners were given a year to complete necessary improvements. Six months later a building permit was issued, but work was never completed.
On Tuesday, seven years and eight months after the building at 725-727 West St. got bad enough for the city to get involved, the Board of Aldermen ordered the building to be razed.
A quote to demolish the house, hand-scrawled onto paper “by PW,” came to $6,500 and includes asbestos removal.
The Craven County tax office puts the value of the double-lot property with improvements at $81,530.Tax value of the bare land is $14,440. Zillow, an online service that estimates the real estate values, thinks the property is worth about $102,000.
But judging from recent cases, the city and county won’t come close to getting that kind of money if 725-727 West Street ever comes up for sale.
Take 1111 Williams St., for example. A derelict house was once there, torn down by order of the city. A lien was put on the property and the city eventually foreclosed. At the time of foreclosure, taxes were due amounting to $3,850.42 owed to the county and $3,726.69 owed to the city, a total of $7,577.11.
Back taxes aside, the city paid $3,200 to demolish the house, the city and county paid $2,273.83 in foreclosure costs, and the city paid $205 to advertise for an upset bid.
In short, the county values the property at $4,000. The city and the county put $5,678.83 into it. On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen agreed to sell the property for $1,000.
Loss after expenses: $4,678.83. Lost property taxes: $7,577.11. Total loss to taxpayers: $12,255.94.
That’s just one property. There are 91 more to go, more than 60 of which are in the Greater Duffyfield area.
How the city sells surplus property has been put on hold by the Board of Aldermen until a better process can be devised. The surplus property sold on Tuesday came in under the wire.
How these properties fall into this situation varies but generally are because of neglect by absentee owners, or neglect by homeowners unable or unwilling to pay for needed repairs.
Often, the cost to bring some of these houses back to minimum standards exceeds the value of the house once the work is done. In short, it doesn’t pencil out.
Then there is Johnnie and Ethel Sampson, among New Bern’s most beloved couples.
Johnnie is a county commissioner (in fact, he is running for reelection unopposed). Ethel is a pastor. Their roots in the Duffyfield neighborhood go back so far a street there is named Sampson Street.
Johnnie is a regular at New Bern Board of Aldermen meetings, often providing the opening prayer.
He was there Tuesday, unaware that a property he owns was on the agenda, with staff recommending the former nursing home at 1607 Dillahunt St. be demolished.
According to tax records, the Sampsons bought the building in 1999 for $35,000, three years after Johnnie Sampson was first elected a county commissioner.
This building, said to be the oldest Black-owned nursing home in North Carolina, could face a demolition order by the city due to deterioration. (Google Street View photo)
The building was once known as Harmony House and is believed to be be the oldest Black-owned rest home in North Carolina. It was scratch-built as a nursing home in 1955, sold in 1960, then sold again in 1999, to the Sampsons.
The old nursing home has been vacant since 1999 and, according to a city staff report, “has been a concern of the New (Bern) Police Department since 2001.”
City Development Services Director Jeff Ruggieri said the roof is torn open, and the city has received complaints from neighbors afraid that their children will be exposed to illegal activity that goes on there.
Ruggieri said in a report that the city has worked with the Sampsons since 2005 until late 2016 trying to get the building secured and the property into compliance with minimum structure codes.
“Ultimately, the owners are unwilling to bring the property into compliance,” Ruggieri said in his report.
But that’s not exactly true. While it is true the city has held numerous meetings with the Sampsons over the years because of concerns about the property, for their part, the Sampsons have taken measures several times in attempts to comply. Still, those attempts were not enough.
Although a letter about Tuesday’s meeting was sent to the Sampsons via certified mail, Johnnie Sampson said he received no notice and was unaware his property was on the Tuesday agenda.
“I just happened to come down tonight,” he said.
Sampson said he has been in bankruptcy for the past two years and wasn’t even sure the Dillahunt property still belongs to him.
Alderman Aster asked Sampson what he would like to do with the property. Sampson said his hands are tied while the bankruptcy is in process.
“I’m just surprised the way the city is trying to take all the property, especially in the Duffyfield area,” he said.
“I tell you, the city is doing some business in our community, they like to take over everything. I’m really disgusted with the city of New Bern doing these things like this. They’ve been slowly taking all the property over there in the Duffyfield area where most of the Blacks live.”
Sampson said city officials were aware he was in bankruptcy and were unhelpful in his effort to determine whether he still owned the property and was responsible for it.
He wasn’t even sure whether he was responsible for cutting the grass there.
Aldermen postponed action on the Sampson property while the city attorney determine who actually owns the property. The last time the city did a title search on the property was in 2015, after all.
For his part, Ruggieri, the city development services director, defended the city’s process.
He said the Dillahunt property has been on the city’s radar since before 1999, but became more formal that year due to vagrant and other illegal activity inside the building.
“The city does not want — ever — to tear down a building in the city. Despite what people say, that’s absolutely not true. We take great lengths, as you can see with this property specifically. Now it started in 1999 and we’re here in 2018. Over and over and over again. Despite other things that have been said tonight, Mr. Sampson was in meetings that we had with the chief building official.
“At the end of the day, everyone is very clear that if those issues aren’t remedied, then the building gets torn down.
“This notion that we are trying to invade Duffyfield is nonsense, and you can see that in this project right here.”
The Craven Community College (Craven CC) Foundation has established a new scholarship endowment in memory of Gregory Fitzgerald Smith, a well-known community leader, Craven CC Foundation board member and owner of Mitchell Hardware who passed away suddenly on Jan. 29.
Approved by the Foundation’s executive leadership committee Thursday, Feb. 8, the Gregory Fitzgerald Smith Scholarship Endowment acknowledges the positive and substantial impact Smith had on the students at Craven CC, as well as his service as a board member and chair of the foundation’s current Community Campaign.
Gregory Fitzgerald Smith
“Greg was always one to find ways to make things better and we wanted to honor that sentiment in a way that is appropriate and respectful,” said Lloyd Griffith, Craven CC Foundation president. “With help from this endowment, we are excited about the potential lives that will be touched by Greg’s influence.”
The new scholarship endowment will provide financial assistance for part-time students who reside in Craven County. Craven CC has numerous scholarships in place for full-time students, but the Gregory Fitzgerald Smith Scholarship Endowment is the first in school history to provide assistance exclusively for part-time students.
“There is a recognized need for those students who are seeking that next step up but can only do it on a part-time basis … and need to do it on a part-time basis,” added Griffith. “Rather than simply adding a scholarship in Greg’s name, we felt like this was a spot in the community we could make a real difference.”
Several donations made to Craven CC in Smith’s name have already been earmarked for the scholarship endowment.
“Greg’s compassion for our students is being realized through this endowment,” said Craven CC President Dr. Ray Staats. “Greg put his heart into everything he touched and we are humbled that members of our community chose to honor Greg’s legacy with an endowment that will touch the lives of students for many years to come.”
At the time of Smith’s death, he was serving as a Craven CC board member and was chair of the Craven CC Foundation’s Community Campaign. Smith, as the owner of Mitchell Hardware, was also a recipient of the 2014 Community Fabric Award (CFA) for Business Leadership, which he received during the Craven CC Foundation’s annual CFA ceremony and fundraising luncheon.
“I was delighted when Greg, as one of the strong community leaders, agreed to serve on the Foundation board,” said Griffith. “Like everything else he did, when he joined, he gave it his complete dedication to make it better. After a year, we asked him to chair the community campaign and he enthusiastically said ‘yes.’ He saw the impact that the college was making on the lives of so many people and it seemed fitting to the Foundation board to continue his legacy by investing in the students with opportunities to make their lives and consequently this community better.”
Efforts to recognize Smith’s community leadership are being discussed by other community organizations as well, including the interagency committee consisting of representatives from Craven CC, Swiss Bear, Craven County Government, City of New Bern, the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, Craven County Tourism Development Authority, Tryon Palace and others.
“There is a desire among all of us to do something downtown to memorialize Greg,” said Lynne Harakal, executive director of Swiss Bear. “We are taking our time and brainstorming ideas to think about what this is going to be. There will definitely be opportunities in the near future for people to participate in this effort and express an appreciation for his life.”
For more information about the Craven CC Foundation or the Gregory Fitzgerald Smith Scholarship Endowment, call 252-638-7351 or visit www.cravencc.edu/foundation.
On Tuesday, January 30 at 9 a.m., the staff and students of J.T. Barber Elementary will honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in an Annual Silent March for Peace down the halls of the school and around the campus while listening to Dr. King’s awe inspiring “I Have a Dream Speech” over the school’s intercom.
Participants will walk in silence out of respect and in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of strength through silence and peacefulness. As students are walking throughout the campus they will reflect on the gifts, actions, and acts of kindness they can make in order for our world to become a better more comforting and supportive place.
They will create posters of their dreams, endeavors and wishes for a Peaceful Future to carry with them as they participate in the Silent March for Peace.
Join the school for this moving tribute and reflection in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.