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.
Governor Cooper announces 33 jobs and $2.25M investment in Craven County
McGuckin & Pyle, Inc., a manufacturer of custom lamination and processing equipment, chose Craven County for its new plant, creating 33 new jobs and investing $2.25 million, N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland announced today. The company will bring mechanical and electrical control system assembly and machinery services to New Bern.
“Much of our state is hurting after Hurricane Florence. As we continue to support each other and start to recover and rebuild, McGuckin & Pyle’s choice to move to New Bern and belief in this community underscores North Carolina’s resilience,” said Secretary Copeland. “This is a company that picked North Carolina because of our people, and they are committed to rebuilding together with all of us in North Carolina.”
McGuckin & Pyle produces custom processing industrial equipment such as laminators, winding and unwinding machines, carton forming machines and more. Additionally, the company offers mechanical, electrical and automation control system design and engineering along with machining and fabrication services which will also be located at the New Bern facility. McGuckin & Pyle is privately owned with headquarters and only current facility in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
“Extending our operations into North Carolina is a real game-changer for our company, and we are committed to rebuilding Craven County and helping play a part in getting people back on their feet after Hurricane Florence,” said Keith Connolly, President for McGuckin & Pyle. “Strategically, this growth is a necessity. We have many clients in the Carolinas and this expansion will allow us to broaden our level of support to those businesses. Craven County was integral in navigating the possible incentives that were available for our business. It was a combination of their efforts and the generous support awarded to us that ultimately convinced us that this was the site for our continued growth.”
“Craven County has the workforce needed for manufacturers to be successful, and McGuckin & Pyle knows that no hurricane can take that away from this strong community,” continued Secretary Copeland. “McGuckin & Pyle will move into Craven County Industrial Park, and the strong transportation and utility infrastructure there will support the company’s growth in the Carolinas and beyond.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. (EDPNC) were instrumental in supporting the company’s expansion decision.
Salaries for the new jobs will vary by position but will average $44,304, which is more than the average wage of $37,1746 in Craven County.
A performance-based grant of $70,000 from the One North Carolina Fund will help facilitate McGuckin & Pyle’s move to North Carolina. The One N.C. Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One NC grants require a matching grant from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.
“As we continue to respond and recover from Hurricane Florence, McGuckin & Pyle’s move to New Bern is a welcome bright spot,” said N.C. Senator Norman W. Sanderson. “Our focus right now is getting people back on their feet, and bringing more good jobs can only help that effort.”
In addition to North Carolina Commerce and the Economic Partnership of North Carolina, other key partners in the project include the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Craven County, the Craven 100 Alliance, North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership and Duke Energy.
Location map for a proposed dental office next to Chick-fil-A at New Bern Mall.
Times are tough for brick and mortar retail locations, particularly indoor malls. Just look at Vernon Mall in Kinston (hint: it’s vacant).
New Bern Mall (aka Twin Rivers Mall) has been soldiering on, trying to fill remaining vacant out parcels and upgrade its interior tenants over the past several years.
One such attempt was securing a Cracker Barrel. The mall’s owner, Hull Property Group, filled in a drainage pond and completely re-engineered its drainage system along with part of its parking lot in order to make space for a Cracker Barrel.
The Cracker Barrel was to be located in the southeast corner of the mall, next to Chick-fil-A, a restaurant that is so busy it creates its own traffic jams near the mall entrance.
The deal fell through.
Now Hull Property Group is developing a portion of that location as a dental office.
The site plan describes the facility as a shell building, which usually implies that a tenant will be sought after the building is complete. However, Hull Property Group, on its website, announced back in March that Aspen Dental would be opening a location. The announcement was brief and to the point: “Aspen Dental will be coming to the New Bern Mall and will occupy approximately 3,500 sf.”
Floorplan of the proposed dental office at New Bern Mall.
Now, plans for a dental office are coming before the city Departmental Review Committee on Sept. 14. That’s the stage where the site plan gets reviewed and critiqued by various city departments to make sure it passes muster.
A project plan at this stage is no guarantee that the project will actually happen.
The addition of a dental office to the New Bern Mall footprint is not exactly an exciting addition. It’s maybe even less exciting than the Mattress Firm store that opened there several years ago. Certainly it’s nowhere near as exciting as the Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks that opened there during the same timeframe, and the renovation of Belk about eight years ago.
Still, given the congested nature of that portion of the New Bern Mall parking lot, a dental office may be a good fit.
New Bern Mall has faced stiff competition for new tenants since the development of New Bern Marketplace farther west on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. That new shopping center landed an enlarged Harris Teeter, Ross, Hobby Lobby, Academy Sports, and, unofficially, several restaurants.
The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, creator and host of the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown presented by Got to be NC Agriculture, announced the 21 chefs selected to compete in its third annual cooking competition.
Among those selected is Antonio Campolio of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern.
The chefs and pastry chefs, all based in North Carolina, advance after cooking up the highest-rated dishes across three regional competitions. The main NCRLA Chef Showdown event takes place on Monday, Aug. 27, at Aria at Founders Hall in the Bank of America Center in Uptown Charlotte, N.C.
Antonio Campolio, NCRLA Chef Showdown 2018 finalist. He is executive chef at Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern.
From the Persimmons website: At the age of 12, Chef Campolio began washing dishes at his parents’ restaurant. Beginning at age 18, Chef Campolio worked his way through the world famous Greenbrier Hotel’s Culinary Internship Program, learning valuable skills he still uses daily. After his time at the Greenbrier, Chef Campolio continued his career at 700 Drayton in Savannah, Ga. and later at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Co. Before coming to Persimmons, Chef Campolio was the Executive Chef at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, Wa., where he lead the restaurant to numerous national accolades including Restaurant of the Year by the Washington Wine Commission. During his time in Washington, Chef Campolio was invited to cook a meal at the James Beard House (named for the legendary American chef) in New York City, one of the highest honors a chef can receive.
Recently becoming a father, Chef Campolio and his wife, Zeljana, were attracted to New Bern as a great place to raise their son. “We visited and fell in love with the town for our family. Then I went to Persimmons and saw an incredible opportunity to really focus on local, sustainable food year-round. It was a perfect fit.”
In his short time at Persimmons, Chef Campolio has already established relationships with local farmers, ranchers and breweries and says the restaurant will feature bi-seasonal menus to highlight the foods that are fresh and at their peak. He wants Persimmons to be a place for “locals and tourists alike — where they can count on fresh, delicious and local food, whether just getting a beer and appetizer or enjoying lunch or dinner.”
“This year’s slate of contenders includes some of the most innovative and talented chefs in our state. At the showdown, these chefs will use North Carolina ingredients to demonstrate their creativity and shine a light on our incredible hospitality industry. Attendees will get a taste of why North Carolina’s culinary scene is one of the best in the nation,” said NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges.
Selected chefs – sorted into two food categories, savory and sweet – are vying for the 2018 “NCRLA Chef of the Year” and “NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year” awards. Chefs will prepare and serve tasting-sized portions to event attendees. The dishes, judged by five culinary experts, receive scores on presentation, taste, and use of local ingredients from North Carolina.
NCRLA will crown a 2018 “NCRLA Mixologist of the Year,” as six North Carolina distilleries partner with hand-picked bartenders to craft cocktails for guests and judges to enjoy. Distillery and mixologist teams will be announced in the coming weeks.
New Bern Parks & Recreation is looking for artists who need studio space. The Artist in Residence program offers emerging to mid-range local artists the opportunity to work in an open studio with public interaction. The open studio space is located at 408 Hancock St., formerly the New Bern Firemen’s Museum.
The open studio space, located downtown, gives artists an opportunity to be a part of a growing art scene and to bring culture and vibrancy to our community. Artists can apply for a rented studio space by completing an application. If approved, they’ll have access to 96 square feet of space with Wi-Fi access included. Rents are currently charged at $175 per month. Applications and rental requirements are posted on the city website.
“This is a perfect opportunity and a beautiful open space for artists who want to contribute to the community,” said Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation. “We’re hopeful that artists with talents in multiple disciplines and media will fill the space with creative expression and a spirit of collaboration.”
The Artist in Residence program also gives renters access to exhibition, teaching, and professional development opportunities. The building is fully handicap accessible and all artists are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to rent space and a commitment to volunteering through docent services or teaching/workshops for the public and youth groups is strongly encouraged. Space will be awarded to applicants who best demonstrate commitment to their practice and experimentation and innovation in their work.
If you have questions about the Artist in Residence program, studio accessibility, or would like more information, email Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation.
Fresh from her first National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C., Alderman Jameesha Harris returnedto New Bern on Tuesday eager to spread the conference’s theme, “Rebuild with Us.”
During her return trip from D.C., her head filled with all sorts of dynamic, innovative things that she was eager to see happen here, Harris excitedly texted her fellow aldermen and city staff to look into a program called Opportunity Zones.
And then she got shut down.
(Anyone who has ever attended a professional conference, only to have everything you’ve learned dismissed by the gatekeepers in the home office, raise your hand.)
According to Goman+York, a real estate and economic development firm based in East Hartford, Connecticut, “The Opportunity Zones provision aims to attract longer-term investment to certain eligible areas, focusing on Opportunity Zones — those areas that struggle most with issues such as high poverty rates and sluggish economic growth in the job sector. BisNow noted recently that the bill is structured to be particularly generous towards real estate developers, especially those willing to invest in an area for longer than 10 years.” Full story here
Time is short if the city wants to take advantage of Opportunity Zones benefits, Harris said. Applicant cities have until March 31 to apply or ask for extension from their state governors’ offices.
City Development Services Director Jeff Ruggieri said he looked into it over a couple of days. The program left him underwhelmed, and in essence he shut down Harris’ push to have the program applied in New Bern.
He said similar ideas have been around since 1980s under different names — Enterprise Zone, Freedom Zone, Promise Zone. Those programs had a lot of criteria attached, he said, mainly to create jobs, affordable housing, or both.
He said reviews have been mixed on the Opportunity Zones and that this program has no criteria that he can find. It’s a fund set up based on deferred taxes for people who have capital gains, he said.
“It’s kind an odd program at this point in time. The way I see it, there is nothing that says you need to create jobs. All these other ones say, here, you can go through this program, but you need to do something. You need to create low income housing, you need to create so many jobs. Can’t find any criteria with this program at all.
“It seems kind of counter intuitively as it is applied. Since there’s really no stated goal, … there’s no goal of creating a low income housing or anything like that. The goal really is just to create money. Which can work, we can create projects that would work for something like this, but I don’t think we’re there yet. We really need a specific project and a very specific plan. Need a lot more infrastructure in place, human capital. A lot more capacity to really make this work.
“It’s another incentive, another tool. We have a lot of tools in the tool box incentive wise, especially to apply in our Greater Duffyfield Area.
“But there’s 20 years of data out there that really address incentives and whether they work or if they don’t. Overwhelmingly they really don’t work, they don’t make much of a difference. There’s a couple of projects here and there that work, but over all they really don’t do much.”
Ruggieri said the best way to incentivize development and jobs in a community “is to do some really simple things. Create a safe place for people to live and children to play. Have great schools. Create inclusive transportation system. Sidewalks, safe public transportation. Create a great place to look at. Those things are really what works, and plenty of empirical evidence to support that.
“This (Opportunity Zones) could be another tool, I just don’t see us using it yet,” he said.
There are plenty of examples of “really simple things” that the city is rolling out around the city — just not in the Five Points area, Duffyfield or Dryborough. The only programs the city is actively pursuing in those areas is the demolition of dilapidated buildings and the foreclosing of distressed properties the city in turn has been selling at a loss of thousands of dollars per property.
In short, the city’s efforts in those parts of town are failing. A program like Opportunity Zones, which seek private investment, may succeed where the city has failed. Only problem is that, because it lacks criteria, it would be hard for City Hall to control Opportunity Zones investments.
Harris was a first-time attendee at the National League of Cities conference, learning information and interacting with peers from across the nation. She mentioned another program on Tuesday, Race Equity Leadership Initiative. She said it provides grant money for a consultant to come out and assess whether the community is diverse.
That’s a program that really does seem to serve no purpose. The answer is obvious: New Bern has an ethnically diverse population but an ethnically segregated social structure.
Check out the local country clubs and golf courses and count the number of non-white faces you see there (other than the employees). Stroll through downtown and count the number of non-white faces you encounter. Ask the Chamber of Commerce what percentage of its members are non-white. Go to church on Sundays and look at the congregations. Drive through Trent Woods and River Bend, then Duffyfield, Dryborough and James City. How many African American students attend Epiphany School or many other church-based schools in this community? How many of New Bern’s public elementary schools are ethnically diverse?
Diversity actually does exist somewhat in New Bern’s major retail stores (most notably Wal-Mart) and restaurants (RIP Golden Corral). Many workplaces in New Bern are diverse (again, Wal-Mart).
But overall, New Bern has a long way to go. Opportunity Zones may not fit the mold that City Hall is creating for its vision of New Bern, but maybe that’s exactly what it needs if it is going to fix Duffyfield, Dryborough and Greater Five Points.
Before and after photos show impacts on Trent Road from the New Bern Marketplace shopping center construction. The photo on the left was taken several years ago. The photo on the right was taken on Wednesday.
City officials are revising design standards for the Trent Road Corridor “to accurately reflect the development pattern” that has emerged on that stretch of city street.
Changes were approved by the Planning and Zoning Board at its meeting on Tuesday and will come before the Board of Aldermen for final approval.
Removing a requirement that buildings maintain a front yard setback of 35-50 feet from the street right-of-way.
Removing a requirement that at least 60 percent of the front yard area of any development will consist of vegetation.
Removing a requirement that parking be on the side or behind buildings rather than between Trent Road and the main building.
The section of Trent Road the city is looking to revise development guidelines amid a surge in growth. City of New Bern map
The affected corridor stretches from Ninth Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Trent Road was once the main road serving New Bern, Jones County and Jacksonville, but a new road, once called Clarendon Boulevard but now called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, shifted development away from Trent Road.
Trent Road became a commercial backwater over the years, but more recently, with the development of New Bern Marketplace and other smaller commercial and office facilities, Trent Road is becoming a popular location for developers.
Of course, the largest by far is New Bern Marketplace, a 34-acre, 325,000-square-foot shopping center located between Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, Trent Road and South Glenburnie Road.
New Bern Marketplace will be anchored by Harris Teeter’s first 100,000-square-foot grocery store, which will include a gas station and a pharmacy with a drive-though. Other retailers opening there include Academy Sports, Ross, ULTA, Five Below, Lee Nails Spa, Hobby Lobby, and Rack Room.
A worker installs lettering at the Ross Dress for Less store at New Bern Marketplace on Wednesday. Randy Foster/New Bern Post
Michael Stephens, a Riverside Neighborhood resident, plans to open an outdoor recreation facility on Beech Street off Oaks Road following approval by the city to rezone the property from residential and light industrial to commercial.
Location of a proposed privately owned and operated outdoor recreation facility off Oaks Road. Google Maps image
Stephens has combined two lots, 107 and 109 Beech St., which have access to Jack Smith Creek near its mouth with the Neuse River. The resulting 1.14 acres would be used for a venture he is calling Oaks Watersport Landing: The Owl.
“The property will be used for recreational outdoor activities and small indoor and outdoor events,” Stephens said in a written report to the city. “It will allow opportunities for civic organizations to hold small events. A perfect opportunity to allow residents and homeowners in the area to be part of various organizations and functions while helping build a strong sense of civic pride.”
He said most activities will be done during daylight hours.
Initial hours of operation would be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., five to seven days per week, weather permitting. It may close one to two months out of the year due to seasonally declining activities.
He estimates the venue will have about 10-15 guests per day with a total capacity of 120 people.
A building described as a “lodge” is part of the plan.
Two vacant buildings, a business and a house, are located on the two properties. Google Maps image
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.
Winnie Smith and Lindsay Sims, daughters of the late Greg Smith, have taken over the running of Mitchell Hardware. Greg Smith died suddenly on the morning of Jan. 29 while working at his store. A story by the ever-excellent Bill Hand at the Sun Journal here.
Shoe Carnival, a discount shoe store at Rivertowne Square (you know, the one with Books A Million on one end and Wal-Mart Supercenter on the other), is closing. A source with the company said the New Bern store was under-performing, and faced with the prospect of competition from Rack Room and Academy Sports at the New Bern Marketplace shopping center, the company threw in the towel on its New Bern location. Shoe Carnival fans can still find stores in Greenville and Jacksonville.
Rivertowne Square is in the process of facade renovation work on its east end.
3rd Rock Brewing’s plans for a tap room off Pollock Street have been put on hold while the owner looks for a different, perhaps larger location. Negotiations continue.
Out (for now): Hotel and parking structure at Craven and Pollock
Policy wonks from the UNC School of Government are urging the City of New Bern to turn its attention from a possible parking structure and hotel across from City Hall, and return its attention to a vacant lot at the corner of Craven and South Front streets.
UNC SoG special projects managers Marcia Perritt and Omar Kashef appeared before the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday to advise on behalf of the pivot.
The Pollock and Craven parking structure/hotel SoG had been advocating has been put on hold while Craven County officials decide whether they want to participate. Participation for the county is no small matter. It includes moving the county tax office, donating the property on which the tax office resides to the project, and pooling its tax revenues from the ensuing project until the city pays off the seven-figure costs to build the parking deck.
Editor note: My notes are incomplete, and the PDF the city originally posted online for the project is offline at the moment. Link
The vacant lot at the corner of Craven and South Front streets was acquired by the city as two separate purchases totaling $209,000 in 2000 and 2001. Tax value of the property is now listed at $567,630.
In the mid-2000s, Talbots looked at the property to build a department store, but opposition to the plan put a stop to that. Since then, the lot has been home to grass and one stately tree, with occasional events being held there.
SoG envisions a hotel being built on the property, assuming that some agreement could be made with the city to lease nearby public parking spaces for hotel guests.
SoG apparently is unaware that nearby municipal parking lots are part of a proposed parking master plan tied in with enforced two-hour parking streetside and a push to get visitors and downtown workers to use the municipal parking lots.
Kashef said the goal of SoG’s efforts is to keep people downtown after 5 p.m. by finding projects that serve the public interest and that are financially feasible.
Other areas needing attention, he said, are undeveloped and under-developed parcels and buildings, insufficient parking, and development of second-story uses such as residential and office space. The
Alderman Sabrina Bengel pointed out that downtown’s second-floor spaces are being developed “one right after another. I don’t see that holding us back as much as development of empty lots, vacant buildings and underutilized buildings.”
Bengel also urged SoG to make sure there is public participation in the process.
Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey reminded that the Five Points area continues to lack any attention from the city in terms of economic development.
“It would be good to see the city grow together,” he said.
Faced with a 20-day suspension of his ABC licenses, James Monette, owner of Monette’s Grocery on Old Cherry Point Road, has agreed to pay a $2,000 penalty to keep that suspension from happening.
Monette, brother of Craven County Sheriff Jerry Monette, knowingly possessed gambling equipment at his convenience store around Aug. 31, 2017, according to state ABC officials.
The gambling equipment was described in comments by a member of the Monette family as a “quarter pusher” that has been in the store for a long time.
Monette’s Grocery, at 4001 Old Cherry Point Road at the corner of East Thurman Road, holds licenses issued in 2003 to sell malt beverages on site, and fortified and unfortified wine off site. Monette has operated a convenience store at that location since it was built in 1972, according to Craven County tax records.
The state ABC Commission accepted Monette’s offer to pay the penalty in lieu of the suspension during its meeting on Tuesday.
The suspension would have started March 16 and lasted 20 days. ABC license holders who face suspensions commonly pay fines for any transgressions, since the fines are often less expensive than the lost revenue from suspended beer and wine licenses.
Editor’s note: Stephanie K. McIntyre, who gave an invalid email address, emailed this feedback: The story about Monette Grocery is in accurate. First of all the brother that owns that store is not the Sheriff’s twin brother Gary. I’m willing to bet you got your information from either Matt Knight or Chip Hughes. Monette’s Grocery have not paid the fine, they have received a letter. So, yes this is fake news. Because so far the primary facts are inaccurate.
My response: I have corrected the story to indicate that he is the brother, not the twin brother. The state ABC Commission approved Monette’s offer to pay the fine in lieu of suspension, which is accurately reported in the story. Regarding what led me to the information, it was a colleague at another newspaper in North Carolina pointing out to me that the ABC Commission was considering whether to approve the Bridgeton ABC store. While looking through the agenda, I spotted the agenda item about Monette’s. McIntyre’s definition of “fake” is far broader than mine. I suggest that her assertions and allegations are fake, whereas my article contained a small error that I have corrected. / Randy Foster/New Bern Post
The ABC store in James City is slated for closure just before its lease expires in June 2019, and a new store will be built in Bridgeton to open in May 2019.
The plan received approval from the state ABC Commission on Tuesday.
Google Maps satellite view of the planned ABC store in Bridgeton.
The Craven County ABC Board requested approval from the state ABC Commission to relocate its James City store to a new location in Bridgeton just off U.S. 17 at C and Pine streets.
In his report to the state commission, Craven ABC General Manager Paul Brown said the James City store’s lease expires in June 2019 and will close upon opening of the new store in Bridgeton.
Brown said the James City store would be affected by future construction on U.S. 70.
Brown said the Bridgeton store would be on a busy highway and tap into an additional market (east of the Neuse River) in that area.
Brown estimates sales at the Bridgeton store to be $2.4 million the first year of operation, compared to $2.1 million at the James City store last year.
That construction would turn that stretch of U.S. 70 from a surface street into a controlled access expressway, or freeway.
Craven County has five ABC stores. The Bridgeton store would be built from scratch.
Craven ABC entered into a purchase agreement for the 0.6-acre lot for a price of $269,900.
The closest ABC store to the Bridgeton store would be on South Front Street in downtown New Bern. Another ABC store is located near Harris Teeter on South Glenburnie Road.
Floorplan of the planned ABC store in Bridgeton.
The Bridgeton store would be 4,800 square feet for retail space and 1,000 square feet for office and warehouse. Cost of construction is estimated at $1.25 million, funded through a bank loan with First Citizens Bank.
Like everyone else who knew Greg Smith, his death Monday morning filled me with a terrible sorrow.
Like everyone else who knew Greg, I felt as though I lost my best friend.
Greg was a joyous soul, one of the kindest people I ever met. As I write this, my mind sees his infectious smile, hears his gravelly voice, rejoices in his gentle nature, and is amazed by his super human enthusiasm.
Shortly after launching New Bern Post back in October, I began work on what was to be a series of feature articles about things that make New Bern special. Greg Smith and Mitchell Hardware, one and the same, were first on my list.
I started laying the groundwork. I visited Mitchell Hardware more often, surreptitiously gathering information for the article I was going to write while buying things I didn’t really need.
Did you know Mitchell Hardware stocks more than 80,000 items? That’s what a store employee told me, confirmed by Greg himself. I have half a notebook full of little tidbits like that.
I was going to surprise him with it. I would take my collection of tidbits, photos and videos about him and his store and put it on my website, then I would show him. He would be flattered and a little embarrassed. He did not deserve such attention, he would have said.
That I did not finish it is tragic. That Greg is no longer with us is our tragedy.
But Greg’s death, though untimely and unwanted, was not tragic. It is lives that end unfulfilled that are tragic. Greg’s life is the embodiment of a life lived well and a life fulfilled. Greg’s life was a storybook of friendships and accomplishments and a wonderful store filled with treasures useful and useless totaling more than 80,000 items.
I knew Greg just over eight years. His house is around the corner and down the block from mine and I walk past it nearly every day. Often I saw him in his yard and waved. Sometimes I’d stop and we would have a chat while I petted his dog.
It struck me a bit odd that someone who runs a wonderful place like Mitchell Hardware would live so simply … a gray-painted bungalow with a simple yard. Of course I know the reason; we all do.
Greg Smith spent his life dedicated to his store and a city full of best friends.
Mitchell Hardware was closed today following the death of its owner, Greg Mitchell.
Updated at 4:48 p.m.
Greg Smith, owner of Mitchell Hardware on Craven Street, died on Monday morning at work sometime between 7 a.m. and store opening at 8 a.m.
A store worker found him unresponsive and called an ambulance, according to a source close to Mr. Smith.
Cause of death was not immediately known. Some news media list the cause as a massive heart attack, although that has not been confirmed.
The following statement was released by the staff of Mitchell Hardware this morning.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the loss of a father, grandfather, and dear friend. This morning, Greg Smith, owner of Mitchell Hardware located at 215 Craven Street, passed away. He was 62 years-old. All of us – his family, friends, and the Mitchell Hardware family – will miss him terribly.
“Greg was an ambassador for New Bern. He was always willing to share a story about our beloved town. He never met a stranger, gave the best bear hugs, loved to laugh, and was always smiling. Mitchell Hardware was his heart and soul. He was here before the sun came up and, often times, until long after sunset. He never took a day off, and looked after the employees as if we were his own. Our biggest cheerleader inside and outside of the store, Greg was supportive of so many New Bern endeavors… charitable fundraisers, city projects, Mumfest, the arts community, local theatre, the military, Swiss Bear and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We are working to make funeral arrangements and will keep everyone informed of our plans. We appreciate your support and patience while family, friends, and the New Bern community grieve the loss of such a wonderful human being. Mitchell Hardware will remain closed today, Monday.”
More details will be added as they become available.
A plan that includes enforced two-hour parking in Downtown New Bern cleared a hurdle on Tuesday.
Following a public hearing during which a committee’s recommendations went largely unchanged, the board asked its staff to prepare an ordinance and bring it back for a vote at the board’s first meeting in February.
A committee met over several months in 2017 to come up with ways to solve a perceived problem with downtown parking, with any decisions on the committee’s recommendations put off until the Board of Aldermen’s first meeting in January to enable new aldermen to weigh in on the issue.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel, whose ward includes all of downtown New Bern, led the discussion. While she had some concerns about how much the city ought to charge for leased spaces, she agreed with most of the recommendations.
They include enforced two-hour parking; an increase in parking fines from $5 to $25, doubling to $50 if not paid within 30 days; and improved directional signage directing motorists to city lots on Hancock Street, South Front Street and at the Farmers’ Market.
Notable what the plans do not include is paid street side parking or a push for a parking structure.
Bengel estimated that there are 200 parking spaces downtown that go unused. “We don’t have a parking problem, we have a walking problem,” she said, describing people unwilling to walk an extra block or two to take advantage of areas where there is a surplus of available parking.
Alderman Jeffrey Odham expressed concerns about picking and choosing pieces of the committee’s recommendations, which he said were intended to look at the problem of downtown parking holistically.
He said his big concern is picking and choosing from the committee recommendations just to get the ball rolling, but creating a bigger parking problem six months down the road.
American Prospect, a non-profit website specializing in non-profit, independent journalism, has posted an article that is highly critical of GateHouse Media and explains much of what is going on at many of its properties, including the New Bern Sun Journal.
The headline states:
Saving the Free Press From Private Equity
Navigating the digital transition is a huge challenge for newspapers. Absentee ownership by private equity predators makes it all but impossible.
It’s a long read, but it does a good job describing the toxic nature of private equity enterprises taking over local newspapers and running them into the ground. Here’s one example cited in the article that sounds disturbingly familiar to those who have been observing what has been happening at the Sun Journal:
The Bastrop Daily Enterprise, in the northeast corner of Louisiana, was founded in 1904, part of a small family-owned chain. The newspaper did a thriving business, with 30 employees and $1.5 million in annual revenues. “We served our communities, won awards for our reporting, and made good money for the owner,” says a former staffer who asked that we not use her name. Then the Enterprise was bought by GateHouse Media, the newsroom was gutted, and all operations were centralized by the new corporate owners.
“Now they’ve got maybe eight people,” says this former employee. “They’re lucky if they’re doing $600,000 gross. I remember what these papers used to be. It’s unrecognizable.” Few citizens of Bastrop, however, know the reasons behind the wasting of the Enterprise because no one has reported on it.
The long-form article does not mention the Sun Journal specifically, but does include the Fayetteville Observer, a formerly family-owned newspaper that has undergone significant staff reductions since it was acquired by GateHouse in 2016.
In North Carolina, The Fayetteville Observer, founded in 1816, had been owned by the McMurray family since the 1920s and is the oldest North Carolina paper continually publishing. Fayetteville is hard by Fort Bragg. The paper has a daily circulation of about 62,000 across ten counties, and had been profitable and well managed. But family members, getting older, decided it was time to sell. Charles Broadwell, whose grandmother had been board chair, was the last family member running the paper. He engaged newspaper brokers to find a buyer. GateHouse, the biggest of the private equity players, took over the paper in 2016, making deep cuts in the newsroom and the business office, and moving the copy desk to their regional center. They raised the subscription price for a shabbier product. “It was like walking around at my own funeral,” Broadwell says.
There is hope, according to the article:
While newspapers will never be the money machines that they were in the glory days, they may yet endure as core institutions of American democracy.
However, against this bleak trend, being repeated at hundreds of papers nationwide, there is actually some good news. In some cities, private equity owners are selling newspapers back to local owners who are not looking for windfall gains but are committed to reinvesting in the newsroom and figuring out digital publishing. In other places, like Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Boston, a category of new local owners whom we might call benign billionaires are devising new business models to allow papers to at least break even, while they give talented editors the freedom and resources to rebuild the newsroom and advance digital. While newspapers will never be the money machines that they were in the glory days, they may yet endure as core institutions of American democracy.
I have contacted Regional Publisher Mike Distelhorst and Regional Editor Pam Sander for their comments about the American Prospect article. I will post their replies if and once I receive them.
In the interests of full disclosure, you should know that I was the executive editor at the Sun Journal until October 2017, when I resigned for personal and professional reasons.
Once I discovered that at least one Sun Journal telemarketer was misrepresenting the circumstances of my departure from the company, I posted my resignation letter along with a memo I wrote just prior to my resignation. A short time later, GateHouse Media sent me a cease and desist demand, which I present here in its entirety:
December 14, 2017
Mr. Randy Foster
Re: Your Legal Obligation to GateHouse Media, LLC
Dear Mr. Foster:
I am General Counsel of GateHouse Media, Inc. (“GateHouse”). GateHouse Media is the ultimate parent of the publisher of the New Bern Sun Journal (“New Bern”). I write to remind you of your continuing legal obligations to GateHouse under State and Federal law.
While you were employed by GateHouse, you were given access to unique, confidential, and proprietary business information including information regarding management options for potential layoffs. It has come to our attention that you are publishing such information on your personal blog – http://newbempost.com/myside. Under State and Federal law, the use of such confidential and proprietary information in this manner is prohibited. Further, State and Federal law dictate that you not disclose such confidential and proprietary information to anyone, or use such information for your own benefit or the benefit of others.
To the extent that you are using such information, we request that you immediately cease and desist from such use. Should GateHouse discover that this practice is continuing we will seek an injunction against and damages from all appropriate parties for such misuse.
We certainly trust and expect that you will fully comply with your obligations to GateHouse under State and Federal law, and that no legal action by GateHouse to protect its rights will be necessary. This letter sets forth our position on the matters contained herein and should not be deemed to restrict, prejudice, waive or limit any of our rights or remedies under contract, at law or in equity.
Very Truly Yours,
Polly Granfield Sack
Sr. Vice President, Secretary And General Counsel
I responded that I complied with their demand and took the memos offline, but made a cease and desist demand of my own:
Dear Mrs. Sack:
I am sole owner and operator of the local news website, NewBernPost.com, and a former GateHouse Media employee. I have complied with your cease and desist request in your Dec. 14 letter to me. I removed the article from public access on the evening of Dec. 14, along with social media links to the referenced. It will remain offline while I discuss the matter with my lawyer.
Meanwhile, I am requesting that GateHouse Media and Coastal ENC Group, their officers and representatives, cease and desist from misrepresenting the reason for my resignation from GateHouse Media, and cease and desist from disseminating private personnel records and information about me in violation of state and federal laws and your own company policy.
I expect a timely reply in which you explain steps that will be taking to satisfy my requests. Should I discover that this practice is continuing, I will seek an injunction against and damages from all appropriate parties for such misuse.
I certainly trust and expect that you will fully comply with your obligations to me under state and federal law and GateHouse Media policies, and that no legal action by me to protect my rights will be necessary. This letter sets forth my position on the matters contained herein and should not be deemed to restrict, prejudice, waive or limit any of my rights or remedies under contract, at law or in equity.
Things are getting back to normal now that the holidays are behind us.
Just kidding. With snow and ice blanketing the region, it’s like having an extra week off for the Christmas break. Schools have been closed since Wednesday. So much of New Bern was shut down on Thursday, it nearly felt like Christmas Day.
Though we were well supplied with food, cabin fever drove us from the house and we thank the folks at Sonic and Piggly Wiggly for braving the weather and serving our needs. Other businesses were open, too … these are just the two we happened to visit.
There was enough snow that sledders had more than enough for two full days of sledding on the U.S. 70/Country Club Road interchange, with more sledding days likely through the weekend.
And Tyson makes two
Craven County Commissioner Steve Tyson announced on his Facebook wall that he will not be seeking reelection this year. Scott Dacey is also not running for county commissioner, instead seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Walter Jones.
Beneath a picture of a torch being passed, Tyson said this on his Facebook wall:
I want to thank the citizens of Craven County for allowing me the privilege of serving as one of their County Commissioners for the past eleven years. It has been a wonderful experience and I feel like we, meaning the County Board and the 650 County employees, staff and department heads that work for the County, have accomplished quite a lot during my tenure. I have enjoyed working with all of the other Commissioners despite at times not always in agreement with them on all issues. When we disagreed on one issue we moved on to the next issue without remorse.
It is with some sadness that I am announcing that I will not seek reelection next year. I will have served 12 years when I finish my current term and It is time to pass the torch. The County is well managed and in excellent financial condition.
I utilized my 35 years of business experience and exercised a businesslike approach in my decision-making for the County government and I would hope my successor will also take that approach.
When my term is up I will forever remain a cheerleader and advocate for the city and County in which I was born and love.
Again, thanks for your past support, and may 2018 be a blessed year to all.
Tyson will undoubtedly remain busy. He is a Realtor, owns an inn, hosts a weekly TV program, is an amateur historian. Am I missing anything? I feel as though I am missing a lot.
Things get rolling
The first Board of Aldermen meeting of the new year, and the first full meeting of the newly constituted board, is on Tuesday, and its agenda is just packed with interesting stuff. Packed!
Public hearing on recommendations from the Master Parking Plan Advisory Committee. At least one alderman, Sabrina Bengel, has expressed reservations about at least a portion of the recommendations. Fun fact: a member of the committee, downtown New Bern businessman Buddy Bengel, is her son.
Discussion of potential lease of the old Firemen’s Museum building at 408 Hancock St. It’s an interesting series of twists. The previous board sped (synonym for “bum’s rush”) the Firemen’s Museum’s departure from the building ostensibly to sell the property during a period which the city sought to shed surplus properties. But in the end the city could not sell the building. A group of local artists, meanwhile, approached the board hoping to lease the building. Now it looks like the building could be taken over by Parks & Recreation.
Consider adopting a policy for naming city fire trucks. The city started doing this in 1879, but Mayor Dana Outlaw expressed doubt whether that long tradition is actually a policy.
Consider a resolution leading to reducing First Street from four lanes to two (“Road Diet”). The latest trend among transportation boffins is not to add lanes to accommodate more city traffic, but to reduce lanes. It makes surface streets safer, they say.
Speaking of fire trucks
Alderman Jeffrey Odham had a poll on his Facebook page that ended Friday. Here is the question (more of a leading statement, really) and the results:
New Bern has a long tradition of putting the sitting Mayor’s name on fire trucks purchased while they are in office. Most are aware of the controversy surrounding this tradition due to the issues of the former Mayor. Evidently there are two Aldermen that feel we should issue a resolution supporting this tradition. Some of the ideas that hat (sic) have been discussed are a Fireman of the Year from within the NBFD, honor fallen firefighters, name them after non-profits throughout the community, etc.
27%Keep the tradition
73%Do something different
In the interest of full disclosure, I had to vote in the poll in order to see the results. I was among the 27 percent who voted to keep the tradition.
The two focused on a particular passage in the commentary:
So what did (former alderman E.T.) Mitchell accomplish during her year as an alderman?
She worked on goals set out for her by the mayor and other members of the board (which means, mainly, Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham).
On its face that sounds great, but it put her in a sort of unique position on the board: no other alderman or the mayor had their agenda set for them by other members of the board.
While Ward 3 may have been represented, it was the only ward during that year whose alderman’s main purpose was accomplishing tasks set out for her by aldermen from other wards.
Alderman Jeffrey Odham took issue, leading to the following exchange between him and me:
Odham: Randy, I’m curious as to what you mean when you say that Alderman Mitchell worked on goals laid out for her by the mayor and other board members, mainly me. What do you mean by that exactly and where do you get that idea
Me: She said so in her final comments on the board.
Odham: Interesting. I’ll have to go back and watch ch because I don’t recall those comments. Thanks for bringing it to light. Although I don’t remember setting out any specific goals and objectives for Alderman Mitchell. She came in with her own agenda for Ward 3 based on things her and Alderman Schaible had discussed (flashing lights at Taberna, widening of Old Airport Road, etc.)
Former alderman Pat Schaible chimed in, as well. She was the alderman who resigned and who was replaced by Mitchell. Schaible wrote:
Alderman Odham is correct in that I had lengthly conversations with Alderman Mitchell about the concerns of Ward 3 (including the flashing lights at Taberna and the widening of Airport Road). In fact, I gave Alderman Mitchell my entire file cabinet with everything fully documented.
Publix was handing out boxes and boxes of fresh baked goods to last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve.
On our way back home, we stopped at Publix to satisfy a sweet tooth craving. By about 6:15 p.m., with about 45 minutes before closing for Christmas, Publix staff was handing out surplus bakery items, which would have otherwise been discarded. Our purchase of a frozen chocolate pie, two pints of ice cream, and two pieces of candy, came to $16 and some change.
The rest, pictured at left, including the chantilly cake, came at no extra charge.
Merry Christmas to everyone who worked on Sunday, Christmas Eve, and who are working Christmas Eve.