Downtown Garner was honored as one of nineteen communities to receive awards for excellence in downtown revitalization at the North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street Awards Ceremony this year. Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development and Workforce Napoleon Wallace and Assistant Secretary of Rural Economic Development Kenny Flowers presented awards in categories that include economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.
“The NC Main Street and Small Town Main Street programs provide communities with a recipe to succeed in economic and community development,” said Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development and Workforce Napoleon Wallace. “I am honored to be here today to recognize the outstanding projects that have helped theircommunities succeed.”
“These award-winning projects have made a significant difference to their communities, bringing new jobs, new activities, businesses, and new investment to their Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities. We are proud of the change that these communities are making as a result of the Main Street America™ program and its principles,”said Liz Parham, Director, NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center, part of the Rural Economic Development Division at NC Commerce.
The North Carolina Main Street program helps small towns create vibrant central business districts by preserving their historic fabric and building on their unique characteristics using local resources. A panel of judges chose this year’s award winners from dozens of applications submitted by Main Street communities throughout the state.
The Downtown Garner Association received two Awards of Merit for projects accomplished between 2015-2017: one for Best Image Building Campaign for the branding refresh around downtowngarner.com and one for Best Historic Rehabilitation for the renovation of Full Bloom Cafe on Main Street.
Best Image-Building Campaign – Downtown Garner Branding Refresh
Downtown Garner’s branding refresh began with a long-planned redesign of the downtown Garner website, www.downtowngarner.com, and morphed into a comprehensive, three-pronged approach to brand identity development and mobilization. Phase 1 of the project began with a mobile-responsive website built on a WordPress platform for easy updating and customization, plus a refreshed brand with a standard design template. Phase 2 included the creation and distribution of brand collateral materials and signage used to create a viable presence in the community and mobilize supporters. The materials included Garner Revitalization Association printed freebies, t-shirts, a branded canopy, banners and signage, and branded items, such as posters, rack cards, magnets, koozies and stickers that were distributed at events. Phase 3 including sub-branding of downtown events. Each event got a new logo, style palette and color theme that was unique, but subordinate to the overall branding initiative.
The $16,000 project was funded by the Town of Garner, the Garner Revitalization Association, sponsorship funds, earned income from events, and in-kind donations.
Since the rebranding, approximately 9,500 people have visited the new website. Downtown events saw the most significant increase as a result of consistent branding and social media advertising. On average, there was a 20-40% increase in attendance, plus a significant increase in sponsorship support and investment.
Best Historic Rehabilitation Project – Full Bloom Coffee Roasters Café Renovation
Garner entrepreneurs Patrick and Michelle Byrd completed a full renovation on a c. 1910 historic bank building located at 141 West Main Street in downtown Garner. The under-utilized, deteriorated property, last used as a barbershop, was renovated for the Full Bloom Coffee and Craft Café. The owners preserved the original vault in the building for their café kitchen, rehabilitated the original windows, renovated the original pine hardwood floors and completed infrastructure repairs and upgrades to bring the building up to code. The false façade was removed and the exterior brick that had previously been painted was repainted, leaving the brick that was unpainted, natural. The owners also built a custom bar area and a limited kitchen to serve customers and added seating for more than fifty to the first and second floors.
The $260,000 renovation was funded through a $75,000 Main Street Solutions Fund grant, a $5,000 façade improvement grant from the Town of Garner, and a $180,000 investment from the Byrds. Downtown Garner has no restaurants and Full Bloom filled that gap as a walkable destination for locally roasted coffee, craft beer, and artisanal sandwiches.
The project added 2,100 square feet of usable space to downtown. Full Bloom Coffee added 3 full-time jobs. The Town of Garner is also investing $2.5 million to build a 40,000 square foot recreation center adjacent to the café and the property on the other side of the café is being renovated for two upper-story loft apartments.