Thanks to a $65,000 grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement, a downtown alley project lodged on the back burner because of a lack of funding has been moved to the front burner.
Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. has long wanted to create a third alley space downtown behind the former Fowler Building to connect with Pailin’s Alley and Ives Alley. But having the money to complete project has been a major stumbling block.
The stumbling block just got removed.
ECDI Executive Director Deborah Malenfant announced Tuesday that the organization has been awarded a $65,000 Lowe’s 100 Hometowns Grant that will be used to turn the blighted alley between the former Fowler Building on Water Street and Big Boss Burrito’s on North Poindexter Street into Fowler Alley.
Work on the Fowler Alley project is expected to begin by the end of next week and be completed by Halloween.
“We do have a tight time frame,” Malenfant said. “(Lowe’s) is asking projects be completed by Oct. 31.”
Elizabeth City was one of 100 communities across the country selected from over 2,200 applications to receive a Lowe’s 100 Hometowns Grant. The grant program is part of Lowe’s Centennial celebration.
“It’s a significant project and this is an alley way that we have talked with this board numerous times about,” Malenfant said, referring to the ECDI Board of Directors. “We were not sure where we would get the money or the in-kind donations to make that happen.”
Malenfant said the project will be another step in making downtown an entertainment and economic hub for the area.
“The space for this project is blighted, ugly, and does not represent the surrounding restored properties at all,” Malenfant said. “As we come out of the pandemic and begin spending time in our businesses again, outdoor spaces where people can socially distance will become more and more important.”
The project will include excavation and site work, the installation of brick pavers and concrete, new paint, seating and artificial turf. The alley will have Edison overhead lighting and multiple public art pieces and safety features are planned.
The local Lowe’s Home Improvement store will provide as many of the needed products as possible as well as some other services such as construction assistance to turn the alley into a community space.
Malenfant said there are also plans to hold a “Red-Vest Day” to attract community volunteers to help with the project. Lowe’s employees wear red vests.
“We will have some people out there to do some of the work that is volunteer-oriented,” Malenfant said.
Officials expect the $65,000 to cover the costs of the project but Malenfant is confident that property owners who stand to benefit from the alley’s upgrade to assist if more resources are needed. Part of the alley is also owned by the city.
“We will be asking for buy-in from them,” Malenfant said. “It could be monetary or in-kind. Things like painting or power washing their building to help with the elements of the project.”
ECDI Board of Directors Chairman Spiros Giannakopoulos said the grant gives the city national exposure.
“This grant allows us to complete yet another very worthwhile community space project for downtown and it recognizes that Elizabeth City is competitive on a national scale,” Giannakopoulos said.