Halifax native wants to revive decaying downtown
Posted May 18, 2015
Halifax, N.C. — Downtown Halifax is a veritable ghost town, with boarded-up businesses all along the main streets. The local post office and a bank branch are the only businesses still open.
"A lot of people who owned these business have gotten old, have retired (and) couldn't find people to buy these businesses," Mayor John White said Monday. "It took someone special to come in and try and save the town."
That person is Patterson Wilson, vice president of design strategies for the Marriott hotel chain. The Halifax native has purchased four downtown properties and has plans to renovate them.
"I really see the potential here," Wilson said. "I was born and raised here, and I just love the town. I think when people have a chance to get to know it and learn the history, they get to love it too."
Her revitalization plan grew out of a trip home last year when she saw the crumbling buildings downtown.
Halifax County's jobless rate was 8.8 percent in February, compared with 5.4 percent statewide.
"It broke my heart," she said. "It has such historic value. This part of Halifax is on the National Historic Register."
Wilson's first venture is an old hardware store, a building close to demolition that she is turning into a restaurant called the The Hen and The Hog. The restaurant is scheduled to open in August, and she said she's already getting calls for reservations.
She plans to convert another building into an arts and learning center, and she bought an old farmhouse that she plans to turn into an antiques store.
"I'm going to do as little as possible but make it so it survives another 100 years at least," she said. "I don't feel any pressure because I know people are going to love it, and people are going to come."
White said Halifax leaders hope Wilson's investment will help turn the town around.
"We hope it will preserve these buildings, and we hope it will make more businesses come to town," he said.