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After loss of Cockman, downtown Tryon has less and less to offer

Editors Note: Nancy Holmes has served on the Board of Directors of Tryon Downtown Development Association and has been actively involved with the Upstairs Artspace for 17 years.

A man is murdered, and a towns prospects are dimmed. Jim Cockmans death in 2004 was a significant event for Tryon because his plan for the old Tryon Federal bank building was not fulfilled.

The three classic early 20th century edifices are a downtown revitalization waiting to happen. Cockman saw magnet retail businesses at the street level; inviting condominium apartments on the second floor; and possibly an upscale restaurant with an entrance off Oak Street. Earlier in 2004, the Upstairs Artspace moved into a handsomely renovated structure down the street, so the rebirth of South Trade Street was a realistic goal. Everyone was bullish about the downtown.

Today Tryon is losing ground on the slippery slope of downtown development. Tryon Federal stands empty, its windows staring blankly at the statue of Morris. Up and down the main drag, retail shops and restaurants struggle to stay open; many dont make it. Often, a closed storefront reopens as a service business (real estate, an architects office, computer tech support)–all worthwhile and necessary, but not places of allure, color, fragrance, bustle. In short, downtown Tryon has less and less to offer those who live and visit here.

Granted, major gains were made between 2000 and 2010. Spearheaded by the Tryon Downtown Development Association (TDDA) and the Town of Tryon, a professional streetscape plan got underway with new benches, trash receptacles, street lights, banners, and a portion of new sidewalk. Vest pocket parks and greenways were planted or embellished. John and Ann Gargiulo built the Shops of Tryon. Vital community gathering places like the Lilac Wine Bar, Farmers Market and the aforementioned Upstairs Artspace were established. Designs were proposed for the Tryon Depot area and the corner of Trade and Maple Streets to transform them into public spaces for music, storytelling, chess games and more.

The downturn in the economy has seriously impacted all towns and cities in America. There is far less public or private money for upgrading local infrastructure, reconfiguring streets and sidewalks, constructing commercial properties, planting trees. It may be years before Tryon can complete its streetscape plan. Individuals, too, are strapped and hesitate to take a chance on starting retail businesses.

Cockman would have made the Tryon Federal project work because he had vision, energy, organization and money. Further, his vision was shared by the town government which was in a position to be an active partner. All of this was before the economy crashed. It was also before Tryon became embroiled in the annexation debate. A grave concern is that rescinding annexation plans will negatively affect the downtown as did the loss of Cockman.

But the onset of a new decade should fill us with hope–not as a vague feeling, but a purposeful hope based on past experiences and examples. Maybe another Jim Cockman will ride into town. Maybe the new Town Council will come up with a comprehensive, workable plan for downtown improvements. These are not impossible dreams. But the good citizens of Tryon–as well as people living in the township–must unite behind such efforts and make tangible contributions. Only then will downtown Tryon thrive and meet the challenge of the towns new slogan, Nearly Perfect, Always Tryon.

Editors Note: The TDB has asked for area residents memories of the most significant events and people of the decade just now passing, the 00s. If you would like to share your thoughts on the decades most memorable events, please send them to jbyrd@tryondailybulletin.com attn: Memories.