In September 2021, discussions with Town leaders in Plymouth revealed that the Town was ready to move forward with streetscape and riverfront improvements in light of developer interest in the downtown properties. By moving forward with important public improvements, the Town was demonstrating a commitment to revitalization that should bring further investment over time. The Town wished to begin with Design Development so that the public could be involved in the design process from the beginning to build support for this important investment.
At the first public meeting citizens emphasized the crucial importance of the Roanoke River to the history and character of the Town. One challenge to showcasing the riverfront is that a large portion of the downtown commercial buildings face away from the water, and the property lines for these buildings extend all the way to the shoreline. During the first trip to Plymouth we met with property and business owners in order to hear their concerns about allowing public access along the riverfront. The plans will address this issue by keeping the current easement between the buildings and the river that includes an asphalt road for access and service but changing the materials to permeable pavers and narrowing the road to one-way with restricted vehicular access, then adding a 5’ sidewalk on the river side of this lane and an ornamental fence next to the sidewalk to allow pedestrians the opportunity to walk the entire length of the downtown riverfront. There is ample room in the Town-owned properties to the east, center, and west of this area for public uses with direct access to the river, including two boat launches, public docks, and other amenities such as a replica of the Roanoke River Lighthouse.
There is already a suitable pier to accept the fast ferries once they come online, and the “bookend” parks will be enhanced to offer room for more activities and events, along with paths, landscaping, and benches for walking and enjoyment of the views. All paving near the riverfront is recommended to be permeable pavers.
RESULTS: Regeneration by Design assisted the Town in applying for a Department of Commerce Rural Transformation Grant in late 2022, and this was funded. Work should begin on designing and implementing one block of streetscape in Spring, 2023.