Join Earth Day celebrations on Saturday, April 20 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the corner of Craven and South Front Streets in the vacant lot next to Mitchell Hardware for fun afternoon of learning, children’s activities, giveaways, and an after party!
The goal is to bring people together for a fun, learning experience about our local ecosystem and discover how we can all become more socially-conscious.
“We want to start the conversation and spread awareness of how we can take steps to “Refuse, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.'”
The event will kick off with the reading of the Mayoral Proclamation of Earth Day 2019 (officially recognized on April 22).
Meet organizations who are making a difference in the preservation and conservation of our local environment. Your children will have fun with eco-conscious activities hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plains with materials sponsored by U. S. Cellular.
Continue the celebration with The After Party will be hosted by NCMZ.live and the Brown Pelican held from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Brown Pelican with live music by the Carolina Swamp Dogs and the Neuse River Ramblers.
New Bern Parks and Recreation is partnering with New Bern Now to present New Bern Earth Day 2019.
Carolina Nature Coalition, 252-626-5100
Coastal Environmental Partnership, 252-633-1564
Young Living Essential Oils by Dona Baker, 252-672-5933
New Bern Parks and Recreation, 252-639-2901
NC Sierra Club – Croatan Group
Trent Woods Garden Club, 252-288-4846
Veterans Employment Base Camp
You’ll also be given a map highlighting participating Downtown Businesses.
Enjoy giveaways both at the event and at participating businesses.
Participating Downtown Businesses:
Carolina Creations – Recycled Art Exhibit, 317-A Pollock St., 252-533-4369
Hanna House Bed & Breakfast – Beekeeping, Tesla Charging Station, and Water Reuse System Exhibits, 218 Pollock St., 252-635-3209
Living Well Down East – Healthy Living and Giveaways, 309 Middle St., 252-637-0011
Special thank you:
Volunteer Members of the Earth Day Planning Committee and Day of Volunteers.
Sponsors: Boys & Girls Club New Bern, U.S. Cellular, AlphaGraphics of New Bern, Harris Teeter, NCMZ.live, The Brown Pelican, Century 21 Zaytoun-Raines, Carolina Creations, New Bern Woman’s Club, Salon #9, The Sanctuary Gallery, and the aforementioned Exhibitors and Participating Businesses.
Performers from local improv group Walk-In Bathtub will bring Neil Simon’s “London Suite” to the New Bern Civic Theatre stageApril 12-13.
Four distinct stories come to life within the walls of a single hotel suite in this unique tale by one of America’s premier comic playwrights. The four stories include Settling Accounts, Going Home, Diana and Sidney and finally, The Man on the Floor.While each story explores unique relationship challenges and a variety of character flaws, the single hotel suite and Simon’s masterful style of dry humor are the only common thread in a series of mishaps and unforgettable characters.
“London Suite” offers the first scripted production by Walk-In Bathtub. The group has performed three improv shows at New Bern Civic Theatre and has several others scheduled throughout the year, including a show set forMay 4.
“It has been so exciting to see the crowds continue to grow and come back for our shows at the New Bern Civic Theatre,” said George Oliver, founding member of Walk-In Bathtub and cast member of “London Suite.” “We always want to give our audiences something new to come back for. Several members of the group are also regular actors in community theater productions and it just seemed like a great fit for us to try a scripted comedy. We’re not afraid to make fools of ourselves and Neil Simon’s writing certainly lends itself to our style of humor.”
In Settling Accounts, the suite is occupied by an inebriated Welsh writer who is holding his long-time business manager at gunpoint. The villain concocts increasingly farfetched explanations of what he was doing at Heathrow with the cash. Going Home finds a daughter trying to convince her mother to go on a date with a rich Scotsman. The second act opens on abittersweet note with Diana and Sidney, another chapter in the lives of two characters from California Suite. Diana, the Oscar-winning actress, and Sidney, her bisexual husband, are now divorced and are seeing each other for the first time in years.The Man on the Floor introduces an arguing married couple from New York who have lost their tickets to Wimbledon and are about to lose their suite to Kevin Costner.
The city needs input from the local community and requests assistance from city residents in identifying the community’s resources and unmet needs that exist in the city.
The City of New Bern is preparing its FY 2019-23 Five Year Consolidated Plan and FY 2019 Annual Action plan. These plans are required by HUD so the City can receive its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. The City has retained a planning consulting firm, Urban Design Ventures, LLC, to assist in the preparation of these planning documents.
You can find a resident survey asking for the needs within the city and ideas on what residents would like to see CDBG funds budgeted for. To complete the survey, click here. If you’d like to print out and submit a paper copy, click here.
You can drop off your completed form at Development Services, 303 First St., anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The city will accept surveys until Friday, April 26, 2019. If you have any questions, please contact D’Aja Fulmore, Community Development Coordinator for the City of New Bern, at 252-639-7586 or send an email.
Six months after it made landfall, Hurricane Florence’s impacts on New Bern’s economy are still being felt throughout the city, but a new development may delay full recovery for some time.
Hurricane-damaged DoubleTree Riverfront hotel is closed indefinitely over insurance coverage issues related to the hurricane. Downtown New Bern will continue to face its worst economic crisis since 2008-10, when access to downtown was crippled by a bridge replacement and road construction projects.
“Business is definitely down,” said Lynne Harakal, director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, said about Hurricane Florence recovery. “The best information I can provide is revenues are down about 15-20 percent since the hurricane. In retail, that’s a very large hit. Most small retailers have a profit margin of about 10 percent at the end of the year, so if these percentages continue many of our retailers could be in jeopardy.
“Not having the DoubleTree makes this situation even more ominous. Our downtown businesses need the DoubleTree operational. Furthermore, they need the Conventional Center up and running and a thriving Farmers Market to draw customers to our shops and restaurants.”
New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, a top venue for activities ranging from Marine Corps Birthday balls to corporate shareholder meetings, occupies about 3 acres of the downtown frontage on the banks of the Trent River.
The Convention Center was badly damaged during the hurricane, but is aiming to reopen in the fall. A big piece of its marketing plan has been the presence of a full-service hotel right next door—the DoubleTree Riverfront by Hilton.
Sources said there have already been two cancelled bookings at the Convention Center because of the DoubleTree being closed.
The Convention Center and DoubleTree Riverfront occupy a space previously known as Bicentennial Park and, before that, New Bern’s busy waterfront dating to the 1700s. More
Why does the DoubleTree matter? After all, there are two other hotels downtown, and several others elsewhere in the city.
DoubleTree Riverfront, with 171 rooms, is by far the city’s largest hotel. More importantly, it is New Bern’s only full-service hotel. A full-service hotel offers full service accommodations, an on-site restaurant, and personalized service, such as a concierge, room service, and clothes pressing staff.
The DoubleTree was the hotel Alpha in New Bern, occupying the premiere location along the Trent River between the Convention Center and the N.C. History Center.
Once a full-fledged Hilton and, before that, a Sheraton, the $12 million property in New Bern has been operating under Hilton’s DoubleTree flag for several years.
Singh Investment Group owns one other hotel property in North Carolina (all others are in Georgia), the DoubleTree Oceanfront by Hilton in Atlantic Beach. It, too, was severely damaged by Hurricane Florence and remains closed.
Singh Investment has not answered a request to be interviewed by New Bern Post, and local officials say they have not answered their inquiries since January.
In mid-February, the hotel’s general manager attended a Tourism Development Agency meeting and said that due to litigation with the hotel’s insurance carrier over whether it covered damage from wind-driven rain, the hotel might remain closed.
The hotel owners transferred the general manager and two weeks later laid off the entire staff except the sales manager and a couple of maintenance workers. The sales manager worked to cancel remaining bookings.
This puts downtown New Bern in a bad spot. Take the New Bern Grand Marina, for example. It is under separate ownership, but it partnered with DoubleTree to provide amenities to the marina including showers and laundry.
Then, of course, its impacts on Convention Center bookings, and a large hotel staff that has been laid off.
Then there are other effects. A vast, empty parking lot beside a large hotel is not a good indicator of a thriving downtown.
In short, it puts downtown growth and prosperity at serious risk.
Moreover, the longer DoubleTree remains closed, the harder it will be to bring it back into operation. The DoubleTree may very well go from being one of Downtown New Bern’s crown jewels, to a major liability.
It’s sort of like what the Days Hotel did in Five Points. The Days Hotel went from being in business to derelict to being razed over an eight-year span.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel, when asked what the city could do about the hotel, said, “Nothing. It’s private property.”
She equates DoubleTree with the beleaguered SkySail condominiums right next door to the DoubleTrees and the long-vacant Elks Building smack dab in the middle of Downtown New Bern. They, too, are major properties in the downtown that seek solutions and remain vacant or underutilized.
She said DoubleTree’s owners said they are not interested in selling the hotel, and continue to seek a resolution from the insurance carrier.
Meanwhile, the hotel has not reached the level of nuisance abatement, and is current on its taxes, which total just over $120,000 per year.
While it is true that the hotel is private property, current on taxes, and may not have reached a point where it is a public safety hazard, it is demonstrably true that a vacant and empty hotel has an adverse economic impact on the city.
Cities have used that argument to justify employing eminent domain, the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Whether the city has the stomach for that kind of nuclear option depends on how severe impacts become as the DoubleTree Riverfront remains closed.
The DoubleTree Riverfront by Hilton hotel in New Bern has been closed since Hurricane Florence in September 2018. Google Street View photo
Singh Investment Group is a privately held real estate investment and management firm based in Augusta, Georgia.
The company’s portfolio includes hotels, commercial, and residential developments. With 1,400 guest rooms, SIG has hotels ranging from limited service to full service properties operating under Hilton, Starwood, IHG, and Wyndham flags. With over 1,400 guest rooms, SIG sells itself as “a proven leader in hotel investment and operational management.”
In its Mission Statement, SIG seeks to implement efficient operational strategies that maximize financial performance in order to subsequently result in company growth. This objective is achieved through three key areas: Team Member Development, Exceptional Customer Satisfaction, and Disciplined Financial Management.
Singh Investment’s website includes a section called “Case Studies,” where it touts its successes. Ironically, the section is that the opening page is dominated by a panorama photo of New Bern’s DoubleTree Riverfront hotel.
Case studies shown on the SIG website include DoubleTree Oceanfront in Atlantic Beach. The main photo is of DoubleTree Riverfront in New Bern, which is not included in among the case studies.
The website does not include a case study about the New Bern hotel, but it does have one for DoubleTree Oceanfront in Atlantic Beach. Like New Bern’s DoubleTree, the Atlantic Beach hotel was damaged by Hurricane Florence and remains closed.
Except for hotels in New Bern and Atlantic Beach, all other SIG hotels are in Georgia.
The Trent River waterfront had been a busy place throughout New Bern’s early history, but by the turn of the 20th century, the high level of business activity declined and then stopped.
Following is an account of the redevelopment of that waterfront property by Susan Moffat-Thomas, retired director, Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation:
Post World War II suburban development, malls and less use of railroads and water as a means of transportation, left many of the downtown commercial buildings vacate as businesses relocated to areas outside the city limits.
The blighted dilapidated buildings continued to deteriorate becoming health and safety issues, hastening the decline of the waterfront and core of the central business district.
A survey by the New Bern Planning Commission in mid-1960 determined this blighted three block commercial area with its proximity to the central business district was eligible for urban renewal grant funds. This opportunity appeared to have the greatest potential for revitalizing the downtown area. The federal program of land redevelopment, relocation of businesses and demolition of structures to revitalize decaying inner cities was the leading national policy at the time.
In July of 1967, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved a planning grant to the City of New Bern to “renew” the area. The 21 acre project area was bounded by East Front, Tryon Palace Drive (now South Front Street) Hancock Street and the Trent River.
The City created a Redevelopment Commission in 1968 appointing John G. Dunn, Jr., chairman, Sam Branch, vice chairman, Harry L. Vats, William M. Bryan, Clifton L. McCotter, C. Edward Hancock, Jr., Commission attorney and William (Bill) Edwards, executive director, who were responsible for overseeing the objectives of the Urban Renewal Plan, to include: identifying land to be acquired for clearance, obtaining fee simple titles through negotiation or eminent domain, the removal/clearance of all structurally unsound structures, improving and widening existing street systems with adequate utilities, storm drainage and underground electrical distribution systems, preparing land for lease or resale for commercial and public uses as specified in the Urban Renewal Plan, raising the elevation of parts of the project area, construction of a bulkhead along the waterfront to reduce the threat of flooding, constructing sidewalks along the waterfront for public use.
The estimated cost of the redevelopment project was $3.5 million. Locally, the City had to share in one-fourth of the cost (cash or improvements) estimated at $716,100. With the anticipated resale of the land the estimated net project cost was $2.9 million.
As the various stages of the project progressed, the Redevelopment Commission obtained temporary loans from the federal government. Federal capital grant progress payments and local grants-in-aid were made as needed over the life of the project.
All but three structures were demolished. The Harvey Mansion (ca. 1798) owned by the county, was rescued from the “wrecking ball” by local preservationists who in an emergency effort got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The other two buildings were owned by a water softening company and a finance company. All three buildings fronted the 200 block of Tryon Palace Drive. Demolition was completed by 1974.
Between the years of 1970 to 1973, the Redevelopment Commission was granted permission by the State of North Carolina, the Department of Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. Department of Conservation and Development Division of Commercial Sports Fisheries to hire an engineering and construction firm to dredge, design and construct a bulkhead and fill in the irregular shoreline area, originally the site of warehouses, wharves, docks, marine railways and slips. Construction of the bulkhead, dredging and fill work was completed by the end of 1974, representing an investment of $4.6 million including in-kind work by the City.
In 1974, Redevelopment Commission members made a concerted effort to market the entire area to one or more developers to no avail. A unified plan of development for the area had never been developed and the site was seen as dependent on the revitalization of the downtown. To add to the challenge, HUD was pressuring the City and the Redevelopment Commission to bring the project to closure. At that time New Bern was a small town of less than 16,000 and did not have the ambiance it has today.
In 1976, Wachovia Bank & Trust Company purchased a lot at the corner of Middle Street and South Front Street and built a building for their new bank. Branch Bank purchased a parcel at the corner of South Front Street.
In January 1977, the County purchased two parcels of property on the eastern side of Craven Street. The County’s plan to build a county office complex to include a new jail on the Trent waterfront generated widespread controversy. Articles in the Sun Journal, a political cartoon with prisoners fishing from their cell windows and letters to the editor led to the failure of a bond issue for construction.
Another problem surfaced in 1977 when a local law firm, interested in building a new office complex on the urban renewal property, withdrew their offer when a problem arose in getting a clear title to the property that related to the land title of reclaimed underwater lands.
Even though all dredge and fill permit regulations were complied with and the State of North Carolina had delivered a Quit-Claim Deed to the Redevelopment Commission for the land reclaimed by dredging and filling, it became evident that land titles would be subject to the rights of the United States by reason of federal control over navigable waters, i.e., that section had to be removed from “federal navigable waters” jurisdiction so a clear title could be obtained by property owners.
City Attorney, Al Ward, sought assistance from Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-Farmville, former senators Jesse Helms and Robert Morgan. Introduced as part of a bill, it did not pass. The issue was finally solved when it was tacked on to Public Law 96-520, and became a U. S. law in December of 1980.
In the meantime, the Redevelopment Commission closed the project out, conveying the unsold portions of the urban renewal land to the City in 1978.
In January 1981, Swiss Bear obtained an agreement with the Craven County Commissioners and New Bern Board of Aldermen allowing Swiss Bear 12 months to develop a comprehensive Plan for the Bicentennial Park/urban renewal land to include identifying and recruiting potential developers and tenants for the property. Development Task Force members included representatives from Swiss Bear, financial institutions, developers, city manager, planning department, the county, engineers, architects, real estate agents and appraisers.
Steps were to be taken to market and develop the 14 acres to include a waterfront hotel, conference/meeting facilities and marina.
Swiss Bear coordinating a feasibility/comprehensive plan on development of the remaining 14 acres of urban renewal land. In 1983, Marvin Davis was the Swiss Bear director and he aggressively worked to recruit a developer for a 100-room hotel that would have a meeting/conference center and 100 boat slip marina and pedestrian river walkway.
Of those that made the presentation to the Board of Aldermen, Maurice Elledge & Assoc. offer to include a nationally franchised hotel was approved. The project, to be located on 8.5 acres, and was contingent on getting a $2.5 million Urban Development Action Grant from the federal government. In 1984, the city wasn’t one of the cities selected, so in the next year, Davis and others did a lot of heavy lobbying behind the scenes in the second round and in November 1984 it was announced the city was awarded $1.9 million grant, which made the project possible.
Elledge was to pay the city 6 percent interest in the projects sixth and seventh years and 8 percent for the rest of the 25 year loan. The city was required to use the developer’s payback money for other economic community projects. The city used it to help redevelop Union Point in 1995. It required an archeological dig, design and site plan for the site, and so on. The hotel and marina opened in December 1986.
Ed’s note: Since 1986, the property has operated under a number of hotel flags, including Sheraton, Hilton, and now, DoubleTree by Hilton.
The popular Harry Goodman Battlefield Adventure Day for families isSaturday, March 23, at the 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 extensively upgraded by the New Bern Historical Society. This year the event is open to guests of all ages, with special activities for children 6-12 years old. Check-inbegins at 11:30 a.m.with activitiesfrom noon to 4 p.m.
Guests will be greeted by re-enactorsfrom the 5th and 7th North Carolina Regiments.The event kicks off with a commissary lunch for all guests, provided by Moore’s Bar-B-Que.
There will be Civil War era games, crafts, and hands-on displays for the entire family. Children will participate in practice drills and Civil War period activities and crafts. Historical Society battlefield guides will provide an informative and entertaining walking tour of the battlefield.
The day’s activities will conclude with an exciting artillery live fire demonstration by McCullough Living History.
Cost is $10 for the first family member, plus $5 for each additional adult or child, 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: New Bern Historical Society,252-638-8558 and www.newbernhistorical.org
At the end of the day they will take part in the American Battlefield Trust’s Park Day, an opportunity for the public to lend a hand at battlefields and parks across the country. Participants will help rake out the redans. Park Day will begin after the Adventure Day activities are completeat 4 p.m.
T-shirts will be given to the first 45 participants.
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.
Eastern North Carolina’s most popular band for all ages will perform for the fourth time at ShamRockin’ 2019, a St Patrick’s Celebration Friday night, March 15th in New Bern. The annual dinner and party will be held at New Bern’s History Center starting at 6PM with traditional Irish dinner while being entertained by Tom & Dahlin’ with Celtic songs and music…. cash bar with beer, wine and popcorn ..and then dance to the high energy sounds of TrainWreck playing hits like Play That Funky Music, Stayin’ alive, Billie Jean, That’s What I Like, Proud Mary, Keep Your Hands to Yourself….Motown, Rock ,Disco, R&B music from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today…for all ages 18 an over. Tickets available now at Mitchell’s in New Bern and on-line at newbernrotaryclub.org or $25 at the door. Order now, limited seating. Sham-Rockin’2019 is a trademark fund raising event of the Rotary Club of New Bern.
Businesses and homeowners could see a reduction in their property insurance after a recent state inspection and audit of New Bern Fire-Rescue.
New Bern’s new Class 2 rating puts it in the top 2 percent of fire districts nationwide. In North Carolina, New Bern now ranks as one of the top 28 fire districts out of 1,533 total.
“This is a big deal for New Bern,” said City Manager Mark Stephens. “We hope it will enhance economic development and benefit commercial developers, businesses and homeowners. Many large corporations strongly consider higher fire protection ratings when locating to new communities, and we hope this will move New Bern to the top of their lists.”
The new rating takes effect June 1.
The inspection and audit were performed by the N.C. Department of Insurance, and resulted in a Class 2 rating for the community. Previously, New Bern was listed as a Class 3 community.
This routine inspection is required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS). The inspection evaluates communities on nationally recognized standards including emergency communications, needed fire flows, water supply, community risk reduction, and the equipment, staffing, training and operation of the fire department.
A fire district’s rating can range from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst.
“I’d like to congratulate Chief Boyd for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said N.C. Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey. “The citizens in these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”
The new Class 2 rating is the result of improvements made in staff training, fire prevention and community risk reduction. New Bern Fire-Rescue has been working to improve its rating for the last three years.
Insurance companies use fire ratings to set premiums. A fire department with a better rating will have a lower risk of insurance claims.
“This is the result of a lot of hard work,” said New Bern Fire-Rescue Chief Robert Boyd. “I want to thank our firefighters and employees for their support and commitment to this effort. The department’s high level of service and response to our residents directly impacted our ability to move up, and we are proud of our staff.”
NEW BERN – Craven Community College (Craven CC) will host a Spring Open House for new students Tuesday, March 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Student Center on the New Bern Campus. The open house will have information relevant to all types of students, ranging from those embarking on a college journey or looking to take the next step in their career.
This event will give students the opportunity to tour classrooms, get a feel for the campus and meet face-to-face with instructors from Craven CC’s career programs, health programs and workforce development departments. Interactive booths will demonstrate the college’s many opportunities and provide a better understanding of what each program entails. Students can explore course offerings for the summer and fall semesters, with classes available on both campuses and online.
Academic, admissions and financial aid advisors will be on hand to personally assist students with navigating the application and financial aid processes. They will also show students how to apply for various scholarships and answer questions. Information will be available on the college’s many clubs, organizations and events, as well as university transfer programs through NC State, NC Wesleyan and ECU.
Several programs will be on display, such as flight and maintenance, nursing, physical therapy, construction, information technology, basic law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, computer-aided drafting, cosmetology, information technology, automotive, welding, machining and early childhood education. Props and demonstrations will also be set up, and the barbering program will provide free haircuts.
“These are programs that are in high demand,” said Ricky Meadows, dean of career programs. “If students come in here and complete the two-year program, they have no problem getting a job.”
For more information, call Zomar Peter, dean of enrollment management, at 252-638-4597.