From Rust To Revelry - North Carolina’s Communal Space Overhaul



North Carolina was once the industrial heart of America. The Piedmont in particular saw a decline into the latter part of the 20th century, leaving swathes of brownfield in its wake. Now, with EPA assistance to the tune of $2.8 million, these sites are being marked for new development. With that has come an opportunity to show the rest of the country just how to redevelop and reinvigorate derelict sites, and align them with the state's rural heritage. As it happens, NC is excelling.

Rocky Mount Mills

Closed in 1996, Rocky Mount Mills is a Twin Counties development that has made wonderful use of its natural surroundings. Green spaces and lawns have been tended to in sensitive yet attractive fashion, and large areas of the building and its environs have been turned towards mixed-use functions. The result is, as the New York Times highlights, a unique and economically progressive development that shows a little of the best NC has to offer - whether industrial or rural. This use of existing space and developments, and the good work that has gone before, is key to renovating the state’s spaces and bringing them into the public consciousness.

Art preservation and conservation

One of the most famous examples of brownfield renovation in the state is, arguably, seen in Wilson. As the NPS highlights, money has been funneled into the work of Vollis Simpson, who donated works of art made from discarded items into whirligigs. Now with a farmer’s market next to the park and eco-friendly developments along the way, this is another fantastic example of how the state has rehabilitated disused or damaged areas.

Housing for the masses

Touching to a very human level is the need for shelter; this, too, has been provided through unique and sensitive reimaginings of NC industrial sites. The News & Observer highlights the success of The Dillon, in downtown Raleigh, that reformed a polluted brownfield site to instead become a beacon of the state’s redeveloped industrial heritage. Mixed-use lots and affordable housing are combined to make a highlight on the city’s skyline.

With new funding from the EPA for seven more brownfield sites, there’s reason to be excited about NCs resurrection of its industrial heritage. When tied together with the rural wilderness encompassing many areas of the state, residents can be sure there’ll be new spaces to use, and enjoy, in the coming months and years.