Rochelle Small-Toney: New department to help city flourish
By Rochelle Small-Toney
Live, work and play is an adage that is heard more often.
That’s because cities like Rocky Mount understand the importance of having nice, affordable housing, establishing jobs and creating recreational venues for all ages. Making Rocky Mount a better place to live, work and play is one reason why the city has decided to reclassify the department previously known as Planning and Development and to establish a new department-Community and Business Development.
The Rocky Mount City Council unanimously approved the changes at a recent council meeting. Under the new name, Development Services, the city is striving to make Rocky Mount a more business friendly community. We are working to create a One Stop Shop for prospective business owners and developers, offering a central location to process applications, plan reviews, permits, inspections and any other processes necessary for property development.
The mission of the new Community and Business Development department is to revitalize neighborhoods identified as target areas of opportunity in the recently completed housing study, creating more accessible, safe, healthy and affordable housing. The department staff will also work to create a sustainable economy with a focus on local, minority and women-owned businesses, as well as build collaborative networks to provide the necessary training for workforce development.
I am excited about the recent appointment of the department’s leader, Dr. Landis Faulcon. With her more than 25 years of leadership experience in local government, along with her history of managing revitalization, community and economic development initiatives, I believe this department will develop a model community to live, work and play.
The new department will now encompass the areas of Downtown Development, Community Development and Business Development. While Community Development will continue to focus on housing revitalization and devising strategies for long-term home ownership, Downtown Development will concentrate on spurring public and private investment.
Thanks to the construction of the Rocky Mount Event Center, the activities already being planned in this 4,200-seat venue and the fact that our city is at the center of a national trend happening in youth sports, there has already been $4.25 million invested downtown within 60 days. This includes the purchase of the former Carleton House and the expected transformation of that facility into a boutique hotel.
Aside from the live, work and play concept, the departments of Development Services and Community and Business Development were reclassified and designed respectively to create the ideal environment for prospective businesses, residents and tourists. These entities and individuals are expected to flock to our area as a result of the event center, expected to draw people from all over the region, state and outside of North Carolina.
The center has also caused residents to voice concerns of gentrification, defined as the buying of houses and businesses in urban neighborhoods, raising the value of the homes there, and often displacing some families. The Department of Community and Business Development will address how to minimize the impacts of gentrification.
I am excited about the possibilities for Rocky Mount and the growth currently taking place. The city’s job is to ensure we are prepared to leverage that growth and create opportunities for even more improvements to occur.