The City of Sanford is closer to bringing the Sanford Central Green community greenspace to downtown, an initiative and vision that will transform the area for generations to come.
Last year, Sanford City Council committed $2.8 million in funds made available through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to implement Sanford Central Green – a concept shaped through years of public input about how downtown could best serve our community.
Council Goals: Transformation, Innovation, Preservation
With the anchors of the Sanford Agricultural Marketplace on one end and the Sanford Municipal Center on the other, the Sanford Central Green concept includes options for a mobility hub, facilities available for public use, and a greenway connector that follows Little Buffalo Creek – which will be restored to its natural path.
The goal for this concept is to create a foundation for a variety of potential public uses, including festivals, public art displays, youth activities, and more. The concept also increases Sanford’s walkability, mitigates major flooding concerns, and lays the groundwork for continued improvements.
Sanford Central Green is the type of collaborative and innovative initiative the federal government sought when the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds were issued, notes Mayor Rebecca Salmon.
“We can leverage these funds to truly transform our community by jumpstarting the next wave of revitalization, while also ensuring our natural resources are preserved,” Salmon says.
Funding Sanford’s Downtown for the Future
The City’s engineering and planning departments have worked with consulting and design firms to study the community’s needs and create shovel-ready plans that will benefit the greater good.
The City partnered with Downtown Sanford and Lee County’s North Carolina Cooperative Extension to obtain funding for the Sanford Agricultural Marketplace. The project received funding exceeding $1.6 million from Pilgrim’s, the Tobacco Trust Fund, North Carolina Rural Transformation Grant Fund, and Farm Bureau Insurance.
The Little Buffalo Creek restoration has already been granted $1.1 million from the North Carolina Emergency Management Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund. The creek was straightened decades ago; however, changing the creek’s natural alignment along with shrinking greenspace in the downtown area eventually led to increased flooding. The planned restoration will help mitigate flooding and allow for development that preserves the natural landscape.
A mobility hub in Sanford has gained traction thanks to several grant awards to study its feasibility and best location. A mobility hub is a central location for multiple modes of public transportation, including a rail station for passenger service, ridesharing potential through microtransit services, and pedestrian access.
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) included Sanford in a $900,000 grant from the Federal Transit Authority and a $3.4 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant to study potential mobility hub sites and support the planning and preliminary design of one. NCDOT has applied for a $33 million grant from the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods program to fund hub construction.
In December 2022, staff completed a microtransit study, which NCDOT used to obtain a Rural Surface Transportation Grant to pilot an on-demand microtransit service in Sanford. Currently, NCDOT’s Integrated Mobility Division, consultants, and local staff are researching the most effective options for implementing the program.
City staff is well prepared to compete for grant funding to supplement ARPA-enabled funding for Sanford Central Green projects, notes City Manager Hal Hegwer.
Chipping Away at the Sanford Central Green Footprint
To be in the best position to secure grant funding, over the past two decades the City systematically acquired properties from Charlotte Avenue to Weatherspoon Street between the railroad tracks and First Street.
In the early 2000s, the City purchased several properties along N. First Street to address flood concerns and prepare for a future greenway. In more recent years, the City has added to its downtown holdings to complete the Sanford Central Green transformation. Purchases include the King Roofing building in 2015, several homes along First Street in 2016, and the old Love’s Grocery Store in 2017.
In 2019, the City secured an option to purchase the Singer building and successfully acquired the property this week using earmarked ARPA-enabled funds, before its option expired. This purchase allows the City to explore using the site for a mobility hub.
Taking Sanford Central Green from Concept to Reality
The Sanford Central Green concept aligns with the City of Sanford’s Strategic Framework, a guideline developed to ensure smart, planned growth. Specifically, the concept falls under Goal 1: Economic Prosperity for All, Goal 3: Vibrant Downtown, and Goal 4: Planning & Infrastructure Growth.
As Sanford City Council plans for Sanford’s future, the overarching vision is one that considers the needs of the entire community and sets a foundation from which future Councils can build. “We are balancing equity, access, growth, innovation, and preservation so that residents and visitors have a space that works for them today and that continues to benefit our city in the future,” says Salmon.
Learn more about Sanford Central Green on our projects hub here. Follow the progress of the individual initiatives associated with the initiative at www.sanfordnc.net/projects.