Laurinburg DAC/Scotland County Economic Development Corporation Partnership
2021 NC Main Street Award: Organization
Best Public-Private Partnership in Downtown
Laurinburg Downtown Advisory Council
Scotland County Economic Development Corporation
Robert C. Evans, AIA
Allen Peele Construction
In 2019, the Scotland County Economic Development Corporation took an unusual step when it purchased a key property in downtown Laurinburg and became a developer. As a member of the Downtown Advisory Council, Mark Ward, Scotland County’s Economic Development Director, realized that community leaders needed to step up and take an active role in the redevelopment of the downtown district.
The Scotland County Economic Development Corporation (or EDC) began to explore what it could do to help. Its ultimate goal was to create opportunities for others to begin investing in the community. In response, the EDC decided to purchase several downtown buildings with the intent of simply stabilizing them for further development or resale.
One of the buildings is located at 102 South Main Street. After buying the building, the EDC began evaluating the opportunity for additional restaurant space. During the evaluation process, a local individual presented a proposal to run a restaurant, the Railroad Bar & Grill, if the EDC would rehabilitate the property.
Laurinburg partnered with the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center to develop a downtown Marketplace Snapshot. It revealed “retail leakage” areas of unmet market demand. One category showing leakage was “Food Service and Drinking Places.” The North Carolina Main Street staff encouraged Laurinburg to consider expanding and growing this market opportunity.
The EDC invested $415,000 to rehabilitate the 102 South Main Street building and created a tiered lease to help support the restaurant, especially during the pandemic. To ensure the business would be successful, the lease was structured so that the owners would not pay full market rate rent until year three of the restaurant’s operation.
It is rather uncommon for a county economic development organization to take the lead or partner on downtown projects. Mark Ward and the Scotland County Economic Development Corporation board took an “outside of the box” approach. The returns on investing in downtown, the “front porch of the community,” will ultimately be more business development, employment opportunities, and investment.
The success of 102 South Main Street spurred a second building purchase by the Scotland County EDC and several other businesses have secured spaces in downtown.