Rebecca Cross: Give credit to the people for making downtown strong

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I’ve shared before that our most precious asset downtown Elizabeth City is our people. We can plan activities (and we have plenty of them as you read in last week’s column), we can preserve our buildings (which ECDI and the City are encouraging through downtown improvement and façade grants), and we can beautify and improve our streetscape (also continually in progress through projects such as the Artboards in the old Southern Hotel windows). These are all great things.

But, when it comes right down to it — it’s our people who make all of this happen and make downtown special and unique. Our business owners, our volunteers, our shoppers, diners, customers, employees and downtown event attendees, all keep our downtown alive.

Our business owners bring unique entrepreneurial spirit to their businesses, hire our family and friends, donate to local causes, and preserve our historic buildings, giving a special character to our downtown community.

Events, like the NC Potato Festival, are giving another unique “flavor” to the experience people have of Elizabeth City downtown. Where else can you go to experience a Potato Peeling contest, Little Miss Tater Tot Contest and get free fries? And the people who volunteer hours upon hours so others can have an exciting and memorable experience of downtown Elizabeth City are invaluable.

Even the push for preservation of our historic buildings should be about people. Building owners and their renters along with those who live in and patronize these buildings are critical to their survival.

David J. Brown in a Preservation Leadership Forum blog (Preservation in the 21st Century: Preservation Is About People) says, “If preservation is about people, we will be concerned about how our actions affect people and the planet where we live.… We should challenge ourselves in our historic sites, regulatory review, and sustainability efforts to put the focus on people.”

If we changed our focus to people, we would have to be serious about relevance. Brown explains that at far too many places — at historic sites, in the neighborhoods we choose to designate, and through National Trust for Historic Preservation publications — we’ve told our stories in a way that conveniently forget the majority of the people whose lives are part of our layered history.

“Preservation cannot just be about buildings. There has to be a greater end. I can think of no better end than to make the phrase ‘preservation is about people’ a reality,” continues Brown.

I guess my point is that I want to thank our people for their commitment to keeping our downtown a safe, attractive, and interesting place to live, work, eat, shop, play and stay. I know it takes willing people to sponsor events such as Potato Festival and the Mariners’ Wharf Film Festival. I know it takes caring people to contribute to our Friends of Downtown Campaign. I know it takes committed people to run downtown businesses. I know it takes dedicated people to volunteer and to sit on nonprofit boards such as ECDI. And I know it takes thoughtful people to choose to dine, or shop, or do business downtown at an independently owned business.

It takes the community working together to continually support and enhance downtown, the heart of our City. Thank you for your dollars, your time, your creativity and your genuine passion. Our people are precious!

See you downtown!