Changes in leadership to accompany changes in landscape


By Peter Thomson

Sunday, September 30, 2018

In the next while we’re going to see a significant shift in leadership in these parts: a new chancellor at Elizabeth City State University, a new superintendent of schools, a new executive director at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a new economic developer, and a new executive at Arts of the Albemarle. For a town our size it’s a wholesale change of people who can make a difference.

They’re going to find a town in transition as we continue the change to specialty shopping and amenities downtown and large stores on the strip. Look around you and then imagine forward because downtown is going to look completely different in 18 months. We’ll see the transformation of Water Street with the re-formatting of the Weatherly buildings; the emergence of the Brew Pub; the newly restored office spaces where the New Fowler Building was; the gas station and adjacent building coming online at Water and Main streets; and possibly even the Elizabeth City Milling Company building brought into play at 402 Water Street. This street alone represents a quantum change.

And as they say in the ads, “ But that’s not all.” There’s also the restoration and re-equipment of the Virginia Arcade, with the opening of a new pizzeria and gelateria, Arts of the Albemarle taking over the former Carolina Theater on Poindexter Street and making the restaurant a rehearsal space, and Mill’s Downtown Bistro opening soon at Colonial Avenue and Poindexter Street.

Out on Halstead Boulevard Extended, ground has been broken for our town’s first multi-screen theater, a project that is sure to attract more shops and restaurants while Aldi’s and Taco Bell are also coming soon. Midtown, the renovated Southgate Park looks terrific while Harbor Freight has moved in and the old Ace Hardware building is being worked on. Soon the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies will move into the back of Southgate, bringing students and parents to town.

So, how did it happen and can we look to more of the same?

For the past 10 years AoA’s The Center has been the cornerstone of downtown business. (Ask any restaurant owner.) But it’s been able to do this only because of the support of the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners, Elizabeth City City Council and generous businesses and banks. Then, following then-Mayor Joe Peel’s Vision 20/20, political leaders and administrators have focused on encouraging growth while leading our town to a closer relationship with our crucial major industry: the U.S. Coast Guard. And recently ECSU has made significant headway as leaders turn around what was once a failing institution. With attendance and confidence up, this university can help continue our economic progress in so many ways.

It now falls to the new leadership arriving in our community to continue the work of making good things happen. We have high hopes for improving our public school system: a key to attracting new business. Christian Lockamy, our new economic developer, and our chosen tourism director will expand our efforts to attract more visitors, new industry, and more folks deciding that Elizabeth City is a great place to live. We have long-range possibilities of fast ferries, high-tech industry, aviation industry expansion and a new regional connection to the Port of Virginia, all of which need nurturing and bringing to fruition.

So as we watch as these changes emerge let’s enjoy being able to dine, entertain and shop right here in town and, looking back on the old days say, “Things are better now. Let’s keep it going.”

Peter Thomson is a resident of Elizabeth City.