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ECDI mulls upgrade on Main Street landscape

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Shown here is a small tree on East Main Street between Water and Poindexter streets, Saturday. City Manager Rich Olson is calling for Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. to come up with a plan to upgrade the landscaping along East Main.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Downtown officials may consider upgrades to the appearance — specifically the landscaping — of the city downtown’s East Main Street area.

The matter came up at Thursday’s Elizabeth City Downtown Inc., board monthly meeting, when  Director Deborah Malenfant announced there’ll be a downtown-wide cleanup and weeding in advance of the annual Ghostwalk and Elizabeth City State University Homecoming.

City Manager Rich Olson quickly called for focusing on improving the heart of the Harbor of Hospitality’s signature thoroughfare. “One of my pet peeves is we need to really look at the whole landscaping plan on Main Street,” said Olson, who serves on ECDI board by virtue of his position as city manager.

In 2003, the part of East Main downtown underwent a major renovation, complete with the installation of new benches, lighting and traffic signals, as well as the burying of power cables underground.

RPC Contracting, of Kitty Hawk, reportedly bid nearly $468,000 to do the work, which upgraded where East Main intersects with Water, Poindexter and McMorrine streets.

However, at Thursday’s ECDI board meeting, City Manager Olson said the problem is some of the miniature trees planted approximately 15 years ago haven’t matured as they should have.

“It just does not look very fresh downtown,” Olson said in assessing his view of the scene along East Main.

ECDI Director Malenfant asked Olson whether he was suggesting “we rip everything out and redo” and whether he envisioned a project with a partnership.

Olson said he favors a partnership between ECDI and the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Parks and Recreation Department.

“But, what we would like to see is maybe ECDI propose a new planning pattern down in that area,” he said.

He also said the municipal government would coordinate with city staff to make sure the vegetation is durable and has a great success rate of development.

“I’m not asking for any money to help do it right now,” he said.

ECDI board member Gene Scott asked whether anyone on the city staff can do such major landscaping work.

Olson said that thanks to Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jeffrey Simpson, City Hall’s grounds are the best they’ve ever appeared.

Olson said he believes the question is what signature tree should be planted at each spot along East Main and what should be planted around each tree.

“I mean, the more color you put around it, the more we have to maintain ‘em, unfortunately, with flowers and stuff, but it definitely does add a lot to downtown,” he said.

ECDI Board Chairman Tim Williams said, “We will put together a group who will talk about that, but in the meantime we do need to kick in our cleanup for our fall events.”

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