ASHEBORO — Asheboro and Randolph County have a unique opportunity to craft a re-envisioned, innovative identity for the Business U.S. 64/N.C. 49 corridor through Asheboro that will be created when construction on the U.S. 64 bypass is complete.
Facilitated by the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. 64 Corridor Revitalization Committee has been meeting regularly since May to identify needs for the corridor, such as re-branding and upgrades, as well as developing an implementation plan. A group of about 10-15 have been regularly attending the meetings. Efforts are under way to reach out to and engage all stakeholders along the corridor.
During the group’s Aug. 30 session, documents from the City of Greensboro’s experience in re-naming Gate City Boulevard were presented as examples for review. The April 2011 U.S. 64 Corridor Study, which was conducted by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), in partnership with the City of Asheboro, Randolph County and the Piedmont-Triad Regional Planning Organization (RPO), was also presented as a resource for the group.
Wayfinding — or signage that entices and directs people into the city and its business districts — was one of the concerns that necessitated the creation and work of the committee. When the bypass is in place, it will be similar to the bypass around Pittsboro, in that to continue on toward Dixie Drive, drivers will have to choose to exit.
During the planning process for the revitalization of downtown Asheboro, “We already had city color schemes, so we just used that,” Reynolds Neely said. “There are certain standards for when you’re putting things on a sign — we used the internationally recognized colors as best we could.”
Signage on U.S. 64 would direct people to the U.S. 64/N.C. 49 business corridor, which includes more than Dixie Drive. Therefore, renaming the entire corridor is a vital part of the re-branding process.
“We want to make sure we are driving traffic through this area,” Brandi Crumley of the Crumley Runyan Group said. “Now, from one end to the other, it’s not going to have to have three separate names. We can say it’s one thing, (a name) that brings the camaraderie and the focus to the area from top to bottom.”
Adopting one name for the entire corridor may do more than conveniently tie the areas together and boost marketing. It could also increase public safety. A uniform name could make dispatching emergency services more efficient.
“The city and the county already confirmed that no street numbers would need to change,” Brown said.
While committee members plan on working with the City of Asheboro and Randolph County to solicit input on renaming the corridor, one of the first suggestions tossed around the committee as an example was Zoo City Boulevard.
Something like Zoo City Boulevard “immediately communicates to the person hearing the name there’s stuff there, there’s services there — the zoo, hotels, dining, gas and food — everything we need,” Chamber President Linda Brown said.
Neely pointed out, however, that Zoo City is not an official nickname of the City of Asheboro.
While the zoo is often associated with Asheboro and Randolph County, Jonathan Black asked, “Where do you want to be? Do you want to be just the place where the zoo is? Or do you want to be recognized for other things as well?”
Black is the director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Randolph County Center.
To that point, N.C. Zoo Director Pat Simmons offered insights. “I recognize very clearly that Asheboro is more than ‘zoo city.’ It is a very thriving All America City,” she said. “That’s important for people to understand.”
Simmons also shared that the zoo is in the process of officially expanding its name to N.C. Zoo Wildlife Park. The name change “reflects who we are, which is a very large, expansive, open, outdoor space,” she said. It also distinguishes it as something more than what people typically think of — animals confined in cages in an urban setting — when they hear the word zoo.
Next steps for the committee will be to create talking points about the need for re-branding and a roadway name change as well as to meet with and clarify information with NCDOT officials.
The group’s vision for the corridor is beginning to take shape as a thriving, pedestrian-friendly area with a neighborhood feel that will eventually be able to accommodate the addition of public transportation, such as a bus or trolley system. And while its new name may not be Zoo City Boulevard, officials say, it will certainly convey all that both the city and county have to offer travelers who take the Asheboro exits off of U.S. 64.
The next meeting is planned for Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. at the chamber. For more information, call 336-626-2626.