Friday, August 21, 2015

Depot Acquisition Marks New Era for Sanford

More than 100 years after it first opened and 14 years after the land around it became a park, the City of Sanford acquired the historic Sanford Depot on August 19.

A landmark in Sanford, the Depot was built in 1910 to service passengers of three rail companies. To save the building from destruction, the Sanford Area Association of Realtors (SAAR) purchased and upfitted it in the early 1990s to use as office space.

Just as Depot Park has become an economic engine for downtown Sanford, officials expect the building to increase Sanford’s sense of place and continue to be a touchstone for the community.

The purchase dovetails with Mayor Chet Mann’s “Open for Business” vision to establish Sanford as a destination. Mann’s ultimate goal is to turn the building into a future visitors’ center and be the focal point of a newly revitalized downtown. He even has hopes of returning Sanford to a stop on Amtrak’s route.

“With this acquisition, we have preserved our railroad history for Sanford and have secured the use of this historic building for future generations,” Mann explains. “As we invest millions in our downtowns, not having the Depot as one of our focal points would have left this project incomplete.”

Putting this historic building into the public’s hands “signifies the partnership between the Sanford Area Association of Realtors and the City of Sanford in the downtown Sanford revitalization project,” says Crystal Copas, board president. “SAAR is excited to work with the mayor and Sanford City Council to make Sanford a destination for people to bring their families and businesses.”

The City’s investment in the Depot is “one more step in our community’s face lift of downtown Sanford,” says Bob Joyce, executive director of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.

The Railroad House Historical Association, Inc. looks forward to continuing its partnership with the City to enhance Sanford by showcasing the history and charm of the Depot,” says Oliver Crawley, the association’s president.

“I could not be more grateful to the Sanford Area Association of Realtors for sharing in our vision for a revitalized City and joining us in our effort to bring new life to Sanford and foster a new era of growth and prosperity for all of our citizens,” Mann says. “I am also especially thankful to the City Council, City of Sanford staff, the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, and all the private citizens who have been so supportive of this effort.”

“The Board of Realtors had a vision when they saved the building more than 30 years ago, and they deserve credit for that vision,” Joyce points out. “Sanford City Council should also be congratulated on their push to close the deal and make this long-sought addition to the public space at Depot Park.”

“Great things are happening again in Sanford and this purchase of the Depot is indicative of the great forward momentum we have right now,” Mann says.

To mark this significant partnership, there will be a celebration at the Depot building in the coming weeks. For more information, contact public information officer Kelly Miller at 919-777-1133.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Building Integrated Communities, Year 2: Identify Key Issues, Develop Strategies

After a year of information gathering and public meetings, the Building Integrated Communities (BIC) project is ready to identify key issues affecting residents of Hispanic origin in Sanford and Lee County.

A collaborative program of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC-Chapel Hill, BIC is a grant-based initiative that helps local governments successfully engage with immigrant and refugee populations.

To assess Sanford’s needs, the BIC committee surveyed local immigrants and U.S.-born children, conducted three public meetings, and worked with local agencies and nonprofit organizations. “There was tremendous participation in this process,” says Hannah Gill, program director. “Sanford had the highest response rate of any municipality, city, or county that we work with in the state,” she notes.

Results of Year 1

The BIC team is currently drafting an assessment report and executive summary that will be publicly available in both English and Spanish. The report is a compilation of all the research, data, and communications collected over the past year.

The report will also offer a community profile. That profile will share crucial demographic information – such as that 22.4 percent of Sanford residents are of Hispanic origin and 19.2 percent of Lee County residents are of Hispanic origin. “This information is key to understanding the specific needs of the Sanford/Lee County community,” Gill says.

Speaking to Sanford City Council at the August 12, 2015 meeting, Rev. Erika Martinez-Flores, director of Jonesboro United Methodist Church’s El Refugio, thanked Council members for recognizing immigrants as part of the community.

BIC’s outreach “shows that immigrants are a vulnerable population in this society, but that we are also a group that has grown deep roots and we are productive workers with great aspirations for a much higher quality of life than we could hope for in our native countries,” Martinez-Flores expressed.

Addressing the immigrant population’s needs is “a great, great task, but [Sanford City Council] has already taken the first step by listening to us,” Martinez-Flores said.

“The areas I’ve learned are lacking the most are communication and representation,” expressed BIC committee member Santiago Giraldo. “That is clearly visible in every area of essential services – medical, security, and infrastructure,” he said.

“The city has put a lot of money into infrastructure but now is the time to focus on the people,” Giraldo said. “We are proud to be here. We want to be part of your community. We’re just asking for a chance. Now is the time to bring us out of the shadows and allow us to be part of the community.”

Next Steps

In years two and three of this multi-year initiative, the BIC team will evaluate the data they’ve collected to establish and refine priority issues, says Jessicalee White, BIC researcher and  program coordinator. "We’ll work with municipal and county staff, local agencies, and the public to develop strategies to address those issues."

The team will then create an action plan, implement that plan, and then evaluate and document the strategies’ impact on local immigrants.


For more information about Building Integrated Communities, visit the Latino Migration Project’s website or contact Sanford/Lee County Planning Director Marshall Downey at 919-777-1114.

Watch the BIC presentation to Sanford City Council here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sanford Celebrates National Night Out

More than 30 neighborhoods in Sanford came together to celebrate the annual National Night Out Against Crime on Tuesday, August 4.

Here are a few photos from the night. Coordinators and municipal staff are still gathering all photos and videos from the night and will publish more soon.

To submit a photo or video from National Night Out in Sanford, email Kelly Miller.