Downtown renewal boosted

N.C. bank donates $2.25 million and key property

Farmers Supply site

Contribution eases pain of canceled development plan

September 10, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

As Westminster officials consider proposals for a key downtown parcel, the North Carolina bank that acquired Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. -- and ended a $6 million development deal -- will present the city with $2.25 million and the deed to the one-acre site.

The donation from BB&T Corp. of Winston, N.C., will include $2 million toward a planned parking garage, $125,000 to the city for remarketing the property and $125,000 to the Town Center Corp., a nonprofit entity created to handle that and other key sites. The deed is worth $500,000, Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said.

BB&T Corp. will present the money to the city Sept. 22, the mayor said yesterday.

Last year, Yowan called the local bank's plan "the crown jewel" of downtown redevelopment, and he lamented its demise with the merger announcement in January.

Carroll County Bank & Trust had planned to build a major corporate complex, with retail space and a parking garage on the former Farmers Supply Co. property, a block off Main Street at Liberty and Green streets. The governor came to town last year to ceremonially begin the demolition, except for a historic stone building that is to be preserved.

"Obviously, initially, we were very disappointed that the project couldn't go through as planned, but we understand in the business world today that these things happen," said Yowan. "This isn't the first bank merger."

"On the other hand, I think they realize the impact on that property, the impact to the city, and their offer of the two-plus million is obviously very generous. We certainly appreciate it. Every indication I've had," he said, "is they're going to come to Carroll County and obviously be good neighbors and be part of the community."

There was a development agreement between the bank and the city, but no legal action was taken, the mayor said.

"When they came out and made the announcement about the merger that was coming up, in the same breath practically, they mentioned about the contribution to the city.

"They could have sold the property, but they decided to donate it back to us," he said. "They are being very generous and they obviously wouldn't have to be this generous. But I'm sure they want to come into the city and be part of the community."

Town Center Corp. kept the title for the old stone building, and has received some grant money for the building. It has been suggested for use as a restaurant or shop. The corporation probably would hold the lease at least for several years. "There's been quite a bit of interest," said Yowan.

A consultant's report for the city identified Farmers Supply as one of four properties that are key to a healthy downtown, along with the old post office, the fire hall and the former J. C. Penney building.

The Westminster Common Council has placed a moratorium on plans for the Farmers Supply site and the old post office building, recently vacated by the U.S. Postal Service for a new facility on the outskirts of town, until the middle of this month.

City officials have said they will attempt to find another place for a health service that has an option to buy the old post office on East Main Street, which they would prefer to see as commercial, pedestrian-generating use.

Pub Date: 9/10/99

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