Cover photo: BaseballParks.com
By Mary Elliott, Director of Communications and Marketing
The City of Gastonia closed the 2020-21 fiscal year with a bang, accomplishing major projects that will move the City forward, support healthy communities and promote economic vitality for the region. Some of the major accomplishments this past fiscal year include the opening of a 5,000-person-capacity ballpark, transportation and street improvements, increased residential and commercial occupancy, downtown revitalization, and providing residents with reliable water, sewer and electric services.
“We are very proud to continue providing a high level of essential services to our residents and to continue investing in our city, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” said Mayor Walker E. Reid III. “We realize that this past year took a major toll on many municipalities across our state and the country as we all plan for the future.”
Reid, a Gastonia native, says solid leadership, vision and partnerships are some of the secret ingredients to the City of Gastonia’s success. While City leaders point to several projects that are on tap to transform Gastonia from a diamond in the rough to becoming a major player in the world of economic development, at the heart of its bright future is the Franklin Urban Sports & Entertainment (FUSE) District.
Let’s Light the FUSE!
On October 3, 2019, City Council, City leaders and others participated in a ceremony to break ground for the construction of the new ballpark. Eighteen months later, CaroMont Health Park is the jewel of the city, home to the Honey Hunters baseball team, and is poised to become the economic driver to “fuse” the downtown area with development around the ballpark. The idea for the ballpark germinated about 10 years ago when City leaders had the vision to turn a distressed part of west Gastonia into a dream come true. It has been a long road to success.
The City’s Economic Development Department estimates that the area will attract more than $100 million in investment around the ballpark as the catalyst for future development. Directly across the street, Durham-based Durty Bull Brewing Company will open a taproom in Gastonia. The oldest mill in Gastonia is being transformed into Trenton Mill Lofts, which features 89 loft-style apartments. The project is set to open by the end of 2021. Nearby, the renovated Coca-Cola building will debut as a mixed-use site that will include a speakeasy in the basement, apartments, and open terraces.
On Main Avenue, Kuester Development has begun construction on Center City Crossings, a six-story, 90-unit apartment building, and new businesses are popping up where storefronts once stood unoccupied. Development of a new industrial and warehouse park off I-85 and Cox Road began in October and will create thousands of jobs for the region. “It’s a really exciting time for our city,” said Kristy Crisp, director of Economic Development. “And we are working hard to make this a place where we will be proud to live, work and play.”
Meeting Goals and Objectives
Each year the City Council adopts a list of goals and objectives that it hopes to accomplish as part of the City’s Strategic Plan. This year, 59 goals and objectives were unanimously approved and many of these goals are being met. Below are some notable accomplishments and the entire list can be viewed in the 2021-2023 Strategic Plan.
- Infrastructure Investment
- Construction of a transit transfer station at the ballpark began in June 2021.
- Phase I construction of Southeast Utility water/sewer projects is to begin in August or September 2021.
- Healthy Communities
- The City contracted with Bird scooters to provide alternate transportation.
- A public survey for feedback on a citywide comprehensive bicycle plan began in June 2021.
- Plans are underway to develop several greenways throughout the city.
- Renovations to the Rankin Lake Clubhouse were completed in the spring of 2021.
- Good Government
- City leaders are participating in a County task force to end homelessness.
- The City hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator.
- New budget approved on June 1 by City Council for Fiscal Year 2022-23.
- Economic Vitality
Completed traffic signal, transit, and pedestrian improvements at Dixie Village Shopping Center.
- Several larger developments that were approved and underway, including Nolan Farms in southeast Gastonia; Northglenn, a mixed-use development; and multiple Southwood Realty apartment complexes in southeast Gastonia.
- Plans are underway to assess occupancy and development of key retail areas around the City.
Mayor Reid will often say that in the future people will “come to Gastonia and not recognize where they are because of the major growth and improvements.” City Manager Michael Peoples said, “Our city is growing, and we want to make sure we are able to provide long-term sustainability for years to come.”
If this past year is any indication, our City is on the glide path to just that and more!