Smithville revitalization centerpiece up for vote
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – A move by residents to revive the center of town could get some help next week with support from commissioners.
The board is expected to vote Monday, Jan. 23, to make a priority of buying the Smithville Community Center or replacing it with a new one. The purchase would be put on next year’s budget.
The move is part of an overall revitalization plan to improve Smithville, a historically black community in the center of Cornelius. Last summer, a group of Smithville residents, led by Lisa Mayhew-Jones and Sammie Knox, formed the Smithville Community Coalition to get more residents involved in revitalization efforts. The group’s goal is to revitalize the neighborhood by improving its homes and using the community center to breathe life back into the neighborhood.
The group has been meeting with town leaders over the past several weeks to discuss its plans, as well as lay out its goals of repairing the neighborhood’s poor drainage, adding and repairing sidewalks, establishing a community garden, establishing a Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity partnership for construction and life skills training, and forming a jobs committee to provide connections and training for residents.
“If the community center is there, the neighborhood needs to look on par with any new building, which is why we’re trying to revitalize our neighborhood so people will think it’s a nice place to be. We realize this has to happen,” Mayhew-Jones said. “We’re trying to get where the community does it themselves, with a hand up, which we’ve been getting a lot of.”
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity has been operating a neighborhood revitalization plan in Smithville since 2007, building seven new homes on North Ferry Street. The nonprofit recently purchased a foreclosed home on the same street to renovate.
Resident Ronald Potts said now that the town and community coalition have been working together, and generating a lot of discussion, it finally feels like this time, something is going to happen.
“We’re just asking for involvement,” Potts said about his hopes for working with the town. “It’s important for me they understand how appreciative and enthused we are.”
Commissioners will discuss the creation of a community center in Smithville during their planning session Friday, Jan. 20, at the Peninsula Country Club. The Smithville Community Coalition will meet Monday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. at the old Smithville Community Center. Both meetings are open to the public.