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A new nonprofit, Bell Tower Green Inc., will lead downtown park’s development

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Recent activity in the 200 block of West Innes Street in downtown Salisbury attests to progress being made to create a new downtown park for the city. The bank building has been removed and many of its components are being repurposed in the community.

Not visible to the eye, however, are several other recent developments that continue to move the park project forward.

Although originally purchased by the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation with support from community-minded philanthropists, the property has now been transferred to a newly formed nonprofit corporation managed by an independent board of directors.

Officially named “Bell Tower Green, Inc.” this new organization received its recognition as a nonprofit charity in April. The transfer of the property to the new organization occurred July 31.

The new entity will oversee planning, design, fundraising, partnership creation and implementation for the new park.

LandDesign, a landscape architecture firm based in Charlotte, is in the process of finalizing a master plan which hopefully will be completed in the fall of this year. Also, “greening” of at least some parts of the 3.5 acre property will begin before year’s end.

Dyke Messinger is serving as the initial chairman of the Bell Tower Green board of directors. Other board members include Meredith Abramson, Bret Busby, Paul Fisher, Darrell Hancock, Gerry Hurley, Margaret Kluttz, Clay Lindsay, Ed Norvell, Dyke Messinger, Jane Ritchie, and Jason Walser.

“The Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation certainly did its part to secure the property initially,” Messinger said in a press release, “but the 45 families who have donated funds, energy and wisdom to the project so far are the reason we are able to move forward with beginning at least the first phase of our park in the near future.

“This is truly a community-driven project, and it is appropriate that a public nonprofit take over at this point to try to ensure as many public benefits to the community as possible.”

Margaret Kluttz, president of the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, concurred.

“This dynamic group of volunteers have already devoted a lot of time to helping take the park project from a dream to reality,” she said. “This group has raised more than $4 million to pay for the purchase and first phase of the park development. They are moving forward with passion and vision.”

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce secured by the City of Salisbury, improvements were made to the structural integrity of the bell tower located on site over the winter and spring of this year, as well as to the aesthetics of the interior and exterior.

New doors were crafted by Goodman Millworks that are exact replicas of the doors that were originally on the tower in 1891.

Messinger said private fundraising efforts continue.

“We are certainly planning to move forward with development of our park as quickly as possible,” he said, “but we still need significantly more money to build the type of quality park that we dream of for our community.

“We are taking a leap of faith in moving forward without all the funding that we need in hand, but even if we have to phase the development of the park, we did not want to wait years before getting started.”

As has been reported previously, the park master plan will include substantial green space and flowers, parking, performance and community space, opportunities for existing programming (such as the farmers market and Pops at the Post) and public restrooms.

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