Knightdale picks up rejected arts center idea from Zebulon

mhankerson@newsobserver.comMay 2, 2014 

After Zebulon rejected an offer on its old town hall and a proposed arts center that would come with it, Knightdale has expressed interest in picking up what was supposed to be the key to fixing Zebulon’s sparsely occupied downtown.

AARON MOODY — 2010 FILE PHOTO

— After Zebulon rejected an offer on its old town hall and a proposed arts center that would come with it, Knightdale has expressed interest in picking up what was supposed to be the key to fixing Zebulon’s sparsely occupied downtown.

Representatives from the town, which included Knightdale Parks and Recreation Director Tina Cheek, met with Glenn Lewis, Mark Cronk, Blake Lewis and Dallas Pearce at the town’s historic Watson House last week to talk about an arts center Zebulon said no to.

The house is currently unoccupied, owned by the town and has been a topic of discussion, as repairs for the building were quoted to be over $200,000.

The town has discussed in council meetings that besides taking the house down or letting it fall on its own, they may need to look into establishing some sort of partnership so an outside group can bear the financial burden of repair.

Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen said the decision to have the first meeting at the Watson House was not in an effort to try to convince the group that their proposed arts center should be at the house, but to show them what the town might be able to offer.

“There are a couple of options we could do something like this and the Watson House is one of those,” he said.

Instead, he said, the town has been looking for ways to bring the arts to the town for a while and the arts center seemed like a project worth looking into.

“We’re very interested in finding ways to promote the arts in Knightdale and this is the first opportunity we saw in eastern Wake County,” Killen said.

Glenn Lewis, Cronk, Blake Lewis and Pearce have spent the last few months trying to gain traction in Zebulon for a center that they hoped could be placed in the old town hall building at 100 N. Arendell Ave. in Zebulon.

When Commissioners in Zebulon rejected the group’s $90,000 offer for the building, which was key in the arts center coming to fruition, Lewis said the group was willing to let the idea go.

At the core of the original project, he said, was the intention of helping Zebulon revitalize its downtown. He said there was no motivation for personal financial gain.

“(We) made an offer to come out in the public forum and see the response (but) based on the way that the town handled the situation … there wasn’t a lot of public input,” he said, referring to the informal rejection the town made on the offer outside of a public meeting.

“There was little interest shown by the people of Zebulon and at that point (we)said it was a dead issue.”

But Glenn Lewis said nothing is absolute and he is happy to share some of the details the group has put together while trying to bring the center to Zebulon.

“Our town people, right here in (Zebulon), never invited us to the table to have a discussion about it,” said Glenn Lewis, who works as an insurance agent in Zebulon. “There’s too many unknowns to say what we would like to see happen (in Knightdale).

“We’re just excited that people are willing to talk about things … and that’s how good things happen,” he said.

Glenn Lewis said at this point, he and his partners in this project are just sharing details with the town. He said he’s not sure if they would be willing to invest in a property like they wanted to in Zebulon.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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