RUTHERFORDTON — In October 2020, the Rutherfordton Town Council established an official Redevelopment Commission for the purpose of encouraging various housing efforts within the town. The town’s 2021 Action Plan recommitted housing as a top priority for the council.

After months of planning, discussions, and meetings with community members, a draft plan for an Urban Redevelopment Area was recently presented to the Rutherfordton Town Council.

The Urban Redevelopment Area (URA) spans two neighborhoods: Fairview and New Hope. The Redevelopment Commission’s goals are to address existing housing needs in these communities, infrastructure improvements, and encourage new infill housing development.

Officials said there was an outpouring of support in both of these neighborhoods.

“Instead of picking one over the other, the commission decided to create a larger URA to include both neighborhoods,” said Doug Barrick, Rutherfordton town manager. “Originally we looked at a smaller area. But the more we met with residents of both communities it became very clear that there is a lot of support in both areas.”

He added, “the process may go slower because we included both, but in the end, the result will be better. It will create a larger and more lasting impact within our town.”

Rutherfordton Community Development Director Magnolia Long is helping coordinate the redevelopment project, and has been meeting with community groups in the URA for months.

“We have held in-person meetings, as well as virtual meetings. We hope to meet in person again in November,” Long said. “Overall, the residents are extremely excited and engaged. They realize that the town’s commitment is real, these are not empty promises.”

Long says the residents are happy there will be improvements coming, and also grateful the town is asking for their input, not simply telling them what they need.

Barrick agrees.

“Our plan will be 100% based on what the people living in the community say that they need and want,” he said. “It won’t be town officials telling them what they need.”

While the specifics of the plan are now being formulated, potential areas of improvement include home repair (roofing, windows, etc.); housing (new affordable housing options, address vacant housing, encourage infill development); infrastructure (street lighting, sidewalks, sewer lines, wider roads, repaving); and beautification (recreation areas, create greenspace, etc.); and commercial areas (business recruitment and development).

“I am excited about the whole project,” Long says. “Rutherfordton is working to be a better place to live, work and play.”

While the town is also looking to grow, Barrick says the redevelopment plan “...shows good balance. There is a lot of opportunity in our existing neighborhoods.”

Having an official URA will open the project up to new funding opportunities, through both state and federal grants, as well as grants from foundations. Officials say some work on individual components of the overall plan could begin in the first quarter of 2022.