If you dropped in from out of town and picked up yesterday’s Rocky Mount Telegram, you could be forgiven for thinking that the city was booming, with developers beating each other out of the way to land the next big project in Rocky Mount. And that all of that was being driven by one key project, the Downtown Community Facility. That’s certainly what the piece “Downtown looking good to investors” made it sound like.
Public investments like the Downtown Community Facility are spurring private investments in Rocky Mount, according to city planners and real estate agents who are flocking to the area.
But wait. The Downtown Community Facility just broke ground last week. It’s a long way from being completed and open for events. The population in the area has been declining. And there are abandoned buildings throughout downtown. Which means there’s plenty of opportunity for excited investors. The Telegram reported,
Nearly 100 interested buyers and real estate agents gathered for a meeting at the Imperial Centre last week — all looking for a way to wade into the Rocky Mount market…
But if they’re really so excited to get in, then surely they should just buy up some of those empty buildings and revitalize the space. That’s what happens in vibrant economies.
No, this sounds more like a downtown that’s struggling and environment that makes investors nervous. All the meetings, including with city officials, sound to me like they’re designed to ease fears that folks have about wading into an uncertain marketplace. They’re not being attracted by the Downtown Community Facility’s ground breaking. They’re being wooed by leaders who hope they’ll be able to jump start development through this large, taxpayer-funded project.
The proof will be in the pudding. If lots of private investors do indeed buy land, build businesses, and redevelop downtown spaces, then maybe Rocky Mount will be able to claim that the Downtown Community Facility is what brought it all about. But I remain skeptical.