Main Street Pittsboro working toward County Welcome Center

BY CASEY MANN, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/8/19

PITTSBORO — If and when it opens — possibly occupying the former site of Capital One Bank in downtown Pittsboro — a proposed Chatham County Welcome Center would collaborate, cross-promote and communicate all that the county has to offer.

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Main Street Pittsboro working toward County Welcome Center

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PITTSBORO — If and when it opens — possibly occupying the former site of Capital One Bank in downtown Pittsboro — a proposed Chatham County Welcome Center would collaborate, cross-promote and communicate all that the county has to offer.

That’s the vision leaders of Main Street Pittsboro have had for about four years now, according to group President Maria Parker-Lewis, and it’s getting closer to becoming a reality — and an important one for all of Chatham County.

“It’s not enough anymore for towns to just promote themselves,” Parker-Lewis said. “You create better downtowns, you create more, when you cross promote other areas and businesses.”

Main Street Pittsboro has been gathering letters of support as well as financial commitments in an effort to transform the former Capital One Bank, located at 37 Hillsboro St., right on the circle, as the site of the Welcome Center.

“Where this is situated — yes it’s the county seat — but 15,000 cars a day go around that circle so it has a high level of visibility,” Parker-Lewis said.

The vision for the Welcome Center, which hasn’t been given an official name, is to use the visibility of the location, as well as the thousands of people that events draw into Pittsboro, to provide an opportunity for those visitors to be exposed to what other downtowns and other areas in the county have going on and to promote the different attractions in the county.

“We want to create something more than just an advertising space,” Parker-Lewis said.

The group is collaborating with students from Chatham’s School of Science and Engineering and the Chatham County Historical Association to create a experiential devise to promote the county. While still in the developmental stage, the group is working on a virtual walking tour of sorts for the county. Visitors would be able to download the tour and information at either the new Welcome Center of the historical museum located in the courthouse.

“We want to give people the opportunity to get a taste of what the county has to offer rather than just picking up a brochure,” Parker-Lewis said. “A Welcome Center can help communicate and promote a county identity or brand.”

Parker-Lewis also hopes the facility will be a benefit not just for visitors, but for the community as well. The building in question is already often used as a downtown hub for volunteers during events. The group wants to make the facility “more inclusive than just Pittsboro.” The building also houses three offices; Parker-Lewis wants other non-profits to be able to use the two other offices.

“We would like to partner with two other non-profits that have a similar vision, such as those that promote tourism, economic vitality, local businesses,” she said.

The building itself would require an up-fit and renovations. The group would like to improve the facade of the building and include a mural on one side of the outer walls. Parker-Lewis said the goal of the design would be subject of the mural would be “something that will communicate community values.”

The creation of a Welcome Center will likely take community and financial support to make a reality. Parker-Lewis said the project is “going to require additional partners” that “see the value” of a facility of this type. The group has gathered multiple letters of support for the project from individuals and organizations in the county including the Pittsboro Business Association, Abundance NC, Chatham Homes Realty, Eco CP Partners, LLC which is developing Mosaic and the town of Pittsboro. These letters are directed to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners requesting financial support for the endeavor.

“[A Welcome Center] fits with Main Street’s mission of boosting economic resiliency and diversity as well as supporting downtown Pittsboro and further out across the county,” wrote Abundance NC’s Tami Schwerin in a letter of support.

“We join other community members, business owners and the Town of Pittsboro in asking for your support of Main Street Pittsboro’s efforts to bring their vision of a Welcome Center to reality in downtown Pittsboro,” Kirk Bradley, manager of Eco CP Partners, LLC wrote in his letter to the county commissioners.

In addition to letters of support, three organizations have pledged funding toward the project. Lee-Moore Capital Company, of which Bradley is president, and Chatham Park Investors have each committed $10,000 for the Welcome Center. In addition, the town of Pittsboro committed to appropriate $8,000 of funds received from the town’s ABC Board to the effort.

The group will likely officially submit a request for financial support from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting on Nov. 18.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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