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  • Crystal Faircloth

Grants awarded to Elizabethtown for new center; improvements

Two grants were recently awarded to Elizabethtown in Bladen County. The town partnered with engineering consultant Paul Mattox, Libby Smith, and E.L. Robinson Engineering to apply for $2,575,000 to design and construct an 11,000 square foot Community Center on Martin Luther King Drive. Some of the funds will also be used for improvements to streetscape on the same road.

The town has also been awarded a Community Development Block – Neighborhood Revitalization grant that will improve sidewalks and add decorative lighting to make the area safer and pedestrian friendly.

According to town staff, the community center will be built on its current location at the Martin Luther King Park. The facility is designed to meet the needs of the residents with a new playground, indoor event space, multipurpose full-size playing surface with bleachers, locker rooms, commercial kitchen, meeting offices and substantial parking.

“We are grateful for the support of Assistant Secretary of Commerce Kenneth Flowers and his staff at the Rural Economic Development Division,” said Mayor Sylvia Campbell. “During a personal visit to Elizabethtown, Secretary Flowers saw the need for necessary improvements to this neighborhood and shared our vision of revitalizing the former commerce hub that serves as a critical gateway to our downtown.”

Elizabethtown will also be collaborating with Bladen County, Bladen County Schools, and Bladen Community College to offer services at the center including tutoring, adult high school classes, small business development, and technology resources.

“This safe, modern facility will give the youth and citizens a place to receive educational instruction, wellness services, recreation opportunities and other support in a location close to home,” Elizabethtown Mayor Pro-tem Rufus Lloyd said. “The revitalization and development of this area of our town will make it viable for families to live here safely and be attractive to new businesses.”

The community center and improvements to the sidewalks and lighting are part of a larger plan to connect the new town neighborhood with the downtown and to improve safe accessibility to the shopping area along South Poplar Street.

“This is a priority for the town council,” said Councilman Herman Lewis. “However, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is part of a long-term plan. These grants and projects will move us closer to success.”

Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt echoed the positive impact the community center will have on the residents of Elizabethtown and Bladen County. He said that he felt it be “an important aspect of the ongoing revitalization of this community.”

According to Elizabethtown staff, they are working closely with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for the initial startup operational funding and services. Additionally, the town will create a new committee for the facility made up of interested citizens, town council members, and community center partners.

Site preparation, design, bidding, build, and construction is planned to begin in February 2023. Project lead for the center is the Elizabethtown Planning Director Rusty Worley. Worley can be reached by email at rworley@elizabethtownnc.org.

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