LUMBERTON — A downtown paved parking lot now being constructed on property bordered by Fourth, Fifth and Water streets will ease parking problems at the Robeson County Courthouse and fit in with downtown Lumberton revitalization plans, according to city and county officials.
The lot, which will be paved and provide about 85 parking spaces, is the former site of The Robesonian newspaper. According to Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris, the property has been owned by the county since The Robesonian moved to its current site on Roberts Avenue in 2004.
“This lot is going to make it better for parking for both the (county) courthouse and all downtown businesses,” Harris said. “It is going to make it better for everybody.”
The construction project is a cooperative effort between Robeson County and the city of Lumberton. The county commissioners have authorized up to $96,000 to pay for materials. Labor, equipment and all construction — except for paving — is being provided by the city.
City Manager Wayne Horne said the city’s cost of the project will also be about $96,000.
“You can estimate that the cost of a construction project like this will be about the same cost as the materials,” he said.
According to Rob Armstrong, the city’s Public Works director, construction should take about three months. During that time, those who have over the years used the vacant property for parking will have to park on the lot at the former BB&T building. The 125-space lot is part of the BB&T property on East Fifth Street purchased by the county in September 2011.
Armstrong said that in-and-out access to the newly constructed lot will be available from both Fourth and Fifth streets. There will be no access from Water Street, he said.
Although he’s not sure if it will be possible, Armstrong said that attempts are being made to save a large pecan tree located on the site.
“It’s not real healthy, but if we can modify plans to get the tree out of a travel lane, give it a lot of root space, and provide a lot of landscaping around it we may be able to save it,” he said.
Both Horne and Harris said that a year-and-a-half-delay in getting the project under way is the result of the county having difficulty coming up with the necessary funds to support the project.
“Funds are tight,” Harris said.
A joint agreement for funding and administering the project was finally reached about three weeks ago.
“This is a good partnership,” Horne said. “It serves the county as an economic draw and benefits revitalization plans we (city) have for the downtown.”
Dick Taylor, who operates an insurance agency in downtown Lumberton, said the additional parking that will be made available by the new paved lot will definitely be a benefit for those using the county courthouse and patronizing downtown businesses.
“I think it’s going to be a good asset that can be utilized by the downtown,” Taylor said. “Until it’s paved, that lot can’t be used to its fullest potential.”