You don’t think about them unless you need them. Public restrooms will be a reality in Downtown Gastonia in about February, after the groundbreaking yesterday.
It’s a joint project involving the Rotary Club of Gastonia and City government. The building, near the Rotary Centennial Pavilion, will have eight restrooms: three for females, three for males and two for families. Two drinking fountains will be on the exterior.
Assistant City Manager Quentin McPhatter described the public restrooms as “important” for Gastonia. “On-site restroom facilities will be helpful for people who attend events at the Rotary Pavilion, such as the Rotary Summer Concert series,” McPhatter said.
In 2005, to mark the centennial anniversary of the national Rotary organization, the local Rotary Club provided funding to build the Rotary Centennial Pavilion near Main Avenue in Gastonia. 2020 marks another anniversary: the 100th birthday of the local Rotary Club. “We wanted to do a service project for our local centennial,” said Steve Whitesell, past president of the Rotary Club of Gastonia. “The public restrooms were one of several things we considered. We decided this was the most appropriate.”
Whitesell noted that when the Rotary organization began in 1905, its first project was a public restroom in downtown Chicago.
“This is a really good thing for the City,” Whitesell said. “Local government won’t have to rent porta-potties anymore.” For years, the City has rented portable restrooms for events like the Veterans Day parade, Christmas in the City and summer concerts at the Pavilion. In addition to being the first public restrooms in Downtown Gastonia, Whitesell said the project will provide the first public drinking fountains in the center city.
The Rotary is raising the approximately $210,000 needed to build the restrooms and provide signage. Whitesell said the civic group has raised $180,000 so far, all in donations from foundations, club fundraising events, public contributions, and Rotary Club members.
Whitesell said that when construction is finished, the Rotary Club will give the building’s deed to the City, like it did with the Pavilion. After the City takes ownership, City employees will be responsible for maintaining the restrooms. McPhatter said the bathroom building will be open only during special events Downtown.
“Partnerships like this between the City and Rotary are important,” McPhatter said. “Both entities work to improve the quality of life in our community. The summer concert series is an example of family-friendly events which also encourage people to visit Gastonia’s Downtown and spend money at Downtown businesses.”
Although it may sound strange to say he’s excited about building public restrooms, McPhatter said this is about more than bathrooms. “This project is exciting because it will serve the community and be a key component of our Downtown area as it relates to special events,” he said.