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  • Rob Glover

Cherryville is Blossoming with Prosperity — Here's How Residents Can Help

Years ago, public and community leaders in Cherryville began an intentional plan to revitalize their city center. They’ve been anything but idle since.

Through their work, Cherryville’s downtown has been placed on the national historic register. They’ve earned the prestigious designation of a North Carolina Main Street Community and their beautification efforts have made the town a model of placemaking for other cities to follow.

Downtown Cherryville - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

Private investors have taken notice of the town’s financial investments and have begun breathing life back into the historic brick buildings that line Cherryville’s Main Street—carving out space for new businesses, jobs, and services for the community.

Even with all the progress to date, the journey for Cherryville is just beginning. Soon, Gaston County’s most western municipality will embark on the next—and most ambitious—phase of its plan: replacing century-old sewer and water lines that run beneath downtown while adding new streetscape improvements.

Once complete, the city “where life blossoms” will have the infrastructure it needs to support decades of growth.

Downtown Cherryville's Apartment Living

Cherryville has plans to add apartments to its housing options, an effort that brings downtown to life. The homes are located on the second floor of a beautiful two-story brick building built over a century ago. In some towns, that building would stand out. In Cherryville, it’s neatly folded into an idyllic streetscape of European-inspired architecture.

Proposed Site for Downtown Apartments - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

The apartments in downtown Cherryville are significant for two reasons.

First, they’re another in a long string of signals that the town is experiencing sustainable growth.

Sustainable growth benefits businesses, residents, and visitors. New businesses bring jobs and services while also taking much of the tax burden off residents. New residents offer those businesses customers and a labor force. Visitors enjoy the businesses’ services while bringing money and taxes to the town.

Second, and more importantly, the apartments are one of many visible results that show how Cherryville’s public financial investment is encouraging private development.

Coca-Cola Mural, Downtown Cherryville - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

Public and community projects—like improving a streetscape, painting a mural, or fixing a sidewalk—are signals to developers that a city is a good place to invest. Private developers then refurbish buildings and improve facades. Those investments then lead the way for businesses, residents, and visitors to prosper.

We see it happening in other Gaston municipalities. An upcoming extension of the CATS Silver Line light rail will spur transit-oriented development into Gaston County. Placemaking efforts in Bessemer City have sparked a revival of downtown living and a new love for their historic downtown. And the FUSE District is already generating an incredible resurgence in a central Gastonia.

The steps Cherryville has taken so far have kicked off an upward cycle of prosperity. The next step is a huge leap that will ensure the cycle continues for generations to come.

Preparing for the future

Jeff Cash, Cherryville’s longtime Fire Chief and current City Manager, is understandably excited for the future of his town.

“Developers are talking about all kinds of plans for our historic buildings downtown,” says Cash. “A new restaurant, a brewery, a meeting and wedding venue. There’s so much positive activity, so much momentum happening downtown.”

It’s not just about having another local place to dine or sample craft beer, though. Cash says the real benefit of these new businesses is the jobs they bring, both the direct service industry jobs and the blue and white collar careers that companies bring when they’re attracted to the vitality of a healthy downtown.

Annalise Boutique is one example of retail in the downtown district - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

“So many of our kids go off to college and they don’t come back,” he explains. “We’re focusing on Main Street to make it a destination that first brings mom-and-pop businesses, then attracts larger companies with jobs so our kids can come back and raise their kids here.”

Once again, Cherryville’s investments are paving the way for these exciting developments. This time, it’s in the form of three significant downtown projects.

Rebuilding downtown from the (under)ground up

Specifically, the projects will replace 100-year-old water and sewer lines and update streetscape features, further adding to the charm of Cherryville’s idyllic Main Street.

Most of the existing iron water and sewer pipes were first placed in Cherryville around the same time masons laid the foundations of their historic brick buildings. As is the norm for iron pipes, they’ve built up internal corrosion that’s reducing the available water supply. They’ve also become susceptible to rupture as the iron became brittle over the decades.

Updated water and sewer lines made of modern PVC mean Cherryville can reliably deliver vital services to its growing city; not just now, but for the next hundred years. The new lines will be twice the diameter of existing pipes. And without the corrosion that’s limiting flow now, the town will have a large increase in capacity.

That’s great news for developers who can continue to carve unique spaces out of Cherryville’s historic buildings and it’s great news for the residents and businesses that occupy those spaces. They can all rest assured that a clean, stable water supply will be available for a long time to come.

Cherryville's Historic Downtown - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

While the arteries of the town will get a healthy retrofit underground, the city’s streetscape will get a facelift above ground. New sidewalk pavers and sidewalks, benches, trees, and landscaping will add to Cherryville’s walkable charm.

The three projects—new water lines, new sewer lines, and streetscape improvements—will ensure that the momentum Cash describes can continue to gain steam, allowing the next generation of Cherryville residents to have a bright future without looking outside of town to find it.

Giving citizens a say

Cherryville is very forward-thinking, planning out projects in a way that will provide the best possible benefit to residents. For these structural enhancements, that means placing three bonds, one for each project, on the ballot of the upcoming general election.

The work has to be done; a city without adequate water and sewer infrastructure won’t function for long. The bond vote gives Cherryville’s residents a say in how those projects are funded.

A bond is a great way for a town to ensure tax dollars are used wisely because the cost to pay the back is typically lower than a traditional loan. Cherryville residents will see three bond referendums on their ballots in the general election this year. One each for the sewer line replacement, water line replacement, and streetscape upgrades.

In Cherryville, a “yes” vote for these bonds means the town can forgo a more expensive bank loan while still accomplishing project goals.

With stronger roots, Cherryville will continue to blossom.

Cherry Blossom Mural - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

There’s a lot of excitement in Cherryville about the growth that’s happened already and what’s to come. City leaders and residents are eager to get these structural enhancements taken care of to make way for the next round of private development.

“When you build it, they will come,” says Cash. “We’ve already seen it. These projects will be another catalyst for downtown. We’ll continue to see Cherryville’s beautiful architecture come to life.”

With these new roots in place, Cherryville’s residents, including the ones now living downtown, will get to watch their town blossom for a long time to come.

Photos Slideshow - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

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