Chancellor Kyle R. Carter unveiled UNC Pembroke’s Downtown Development Project during a Board of Trustees meeting on Friday morning.
The plan is to use private funding sources to renovate side-by-side storefront buildings on Main Street in Pembroke as a center of business, commerce and student and community enterprise. After applying for a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, the university is closing in on raising $225,000 from private donors to purchase the property.
Chancellor Carter laid out the plan, which he said would give the university a presence in the downtown. The benefits of the 17,000 square-foot building are many.
“This is a transformative project,” Chancellor Carter said. “And, no state funds will be used in this project.”
The building would house UNCP’s two business development centers—the Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship. The organizations offer professional assistance to new and start-up businesses.
A business incubator for new businesses is also on the drawing board, along with a coffee shop, an arts and crafts showcase and a store featuring UNCP gear.
Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor with the Office for Advancement, is leading the fundraising. “This is a fundraiser’s dream,” she said. “There is great interest in our Downtown Development Project, but the timeframe is tight.”
Later in the meeting, Lowery announced another commitment had just come in. An unnamed donor has committed $100,000 as a challenge grant, payable on or before mid-March when other donors contribute $125,000.
“It will be a presence in the downtown that says UNC Pembroke,” said Steve Martin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management. “We have successfully completed an environmental and structural assessment.”
“Besides a learning laboratory, two business assistance programs and a business incubator to assist small business start-ups, the center will build academic programs,” said Dr. Cammie Hunt, associate vice chancellor for the Office of Engaged Outreach.
Chancellor Carter said the immediate challenge is to purchase the buildings. He did not name the owners, but he said they were offering the properties via a gift-purchase agreement. Golden Leaf’s and other grant sources’ final decisions to fund the project are pending the purchase of the building. The Golden Leaf Foundation’s mission is to stimulate enterprise in former tobacco-dependent communities.
In unveiling a gleaming new storefront design, Chancellor Carter said the renovation costs would be approximately $1.6 million. “I’d love for this to be a showcase for the town and the university,” he said. “I see it as the start of something really positive.”
Student Trustee Brian McCormick asked how students would benefit. Chancellor Carter noted that no state money or funds from student tuition or fees would be used for the project.
“We’re being entrepreneurial about the Downtown Development Project,” Chancellor Carter said. “It will result in additional opportunities for students.”
For more information on the Downtown Development Project, contact UNCP’s Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252.