WHITEVILLE -- Historic downtown districts can bring people, business, and even tax breaks to an area. That's why Whiteville city leaders are in the process of applying to get the downtown district on the national historic register, which is the boost they think Whiteville needs. City Manager Josh Ray is among those who hope making downtown Whiteville an official historic district would bring back the downtown appeal the city had decades ago. He said, "You don't have a downtown restaurant, you don't have a craft shop, you don't have an art store, you just don't have those things that bring people down here to shop throughout the year, not just during the holidays." Whiteville's courthouse is already on the historic register and the downtown train depot will soon join it. Lifelong Whiteville resident Oscar Edwards, Jr., 79, says the downtown area just isn't what it used to be. He said, "There used to be supermarkets when you're standing along the street, hardware stores, and since then all that has been moved out of town." Peggy Norosky says when she was a teenager, downtown sidewalks and stores overflowed with people. "Now it's just sad to see them empty when I walk," she said. If approved to be a historic district, more priority will be placed on beautifying the area with everything from matching awnings to shrubs to street lights. City Planner Lainie Johnston says one of the biggest benefits would be tax breaks for downtown businesses. She said, "We just want to have more down here and give those businesses those tax credits so that they can afford to come down and start a new business in downtown Whiteville." Local residents say they just want to see what's best for downtown and it would be nice to have the downtown Whiteville they used to know. The plans are in the early stages. City leaders are gathering information and pictures to send to the North Carolina Preservation Office. They hope to then get feedback and direction about how to go about the process.
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