Strengthening the economic future of the West Southern Pines community and, in particular, the soon-to-be vacated Southern Pines Primary school will require vision and planning.
On Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2, local organizers will host a two-day participatory planning session led by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, professor of Urban Policy and Heath at the New School, New York, and author of “Urban Alchemy.”
“She uses a grassroots approach to help reviving vulnerable communities,” said Fenton Wilkinson of the Sandhills Cooperation Association.
Fullilove’s work in communities emphasizes history and culture, and by welcoming participation of a broad, diverse set of participants, she has repaired breaches caused by past discrimination from Paris to Durham.
Using maps and other visioning tools, Fullilove will guide the discussion on how a neighborhood landmark like Southern Pines Primary can serve as an anchor for community play and work spaces.
Historically, West Southern Pines once had its own mayor and town council, later a police force, jail, school, hospital, bank, credit union, doctor, dentist, recreation facilities and stores. However, the town’s charter was revoked in 1931, and West Southern Pines was annexed into Southern Pines.
A second setback that curtailed commercial growth occurred in the 1970s, when land that had previously been non-zoned was designated for residential use. As grandfathered businesses closed, new ones could not open. The result was young black entrepreneurs took their business interests elsewhere.
In more recent years, the town’s zoning ordinances have been updated to allow home-based businesses and the newly created West Southern Pines Task Force is working with area organizations to encourage new opportunities for economic growth throughout the community.
One key step moving forward is the future disposition of Southern Pines Primary. This facility, along with its companion Southern Pines Elementary on May Street, will close when a new elementary school opens in January 2021 off Morganton Road. The Board of Education has not yet said what it will do with the two schools once they are vacated, but it is believed the properties will be sold for new uses.
Built in the early 1920s, Southern Pines Primary is a documented Rosenwald school that was originally developed for the education of African-American children. A small group of community-minded folks have their eye on the aging campus and are hoping to enter into a private negotiation for its purchase.
The community planning sessions scheduled next weekend will focus primarily on those efforts, and envisioning how the campus could be repurposed for future economic and educational pursuits.
Event sponsors include Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust, Moore County NAACP, Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church and the West Southern Pines Civic Club.
There is no cost to attend. Scheduled activities include a planning session on Friday, Nov. 1, 6-8 p.m. and a presentation and participatory planning session on Saturday, Nov. 2, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Both sessions will be held at Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, 972 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in Southern Pines.