Local preservation architect Jesse Plaster was named the City of Lenoir Main Street Champion during the recent North Carolina Main Street Conference.
Plaster has invested a lot during the past several years to renovate and improve several buildings in Downtown Lenoir. His business, J B Plaster Architect, is located at 626 Harper Ave. in downtown - a building that Plaster owns. In addition to being a downtown property owner and downtown business owner, Plaster has completed two building renovations and is working on two others, including five new market-rate apartments in the heart of Downtown Lenoir.
"Lenoir is where I grew up, and it’s where my heart is," Plaster said.
Plaster saved and renovated part of the old Dayvault Drug Store building located at 122 Boundary Street. That project was the first historic tax credit project in Downtown Lenoir. Plaster worked with Main Street staff and Preservation NC to purchase and restore the property. The first floor is commercial space currently occupied by K&K Sparkle Boutique, and the second floor is an apartment that Plaster rents out via AirBnB. The Boundary Street building won a NC Main Street Award in 2019 for Best Endangered Properties Rescue Effort.
After Plaster renovated 122 Boundary St. in Downtown Lenoir, K&K Sparkle Boutique moved into the first floor retail space.
The dining room in the second floor apartment at 122 Boundary St.
In 2019, Plaster started building five market-rate apartments at 1001 West Ave. in downtown. The apartments are located on the second floor of the building and will have an elevator and indoor parking. There's already a private gym on the lower level, and Plaster plans to subdivide the main floor into three spaces to lease for retail, restaurant, or a business. The apartments should be finished this year.
"Downtown is the heart of a community," Plaster said. "It’s all local business and all local people. If you have a healthy vibrant downtown, that’s the sign of a healthy community."
Mayor Joe Gibbons said Plaster certainly deserves to be the City's Main Street Champion.
"Jesse Plaster is a true champion of our city," Mayor Gibbons said. "He was born and raised here, and he has been a great part of our downtown community. He's been involved in several projects in downtown, and we're very proud of him and our partnership. I hope that he will continue to invest and be a part of Downtown Lenoir."
Dec. 15, 2020 - Plaster stand in the corner apartment at 1001 West Ave. The apartments have been completed.
Last year, Plaster purchased the building at 814 Harper Ave. He is renovating the façade, adding a new roof, and installing new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. He's also adding two restrooms and new hardwood floors. Plaster hopes to be finished with the building by this fall and he's going to market the space for commercial use.
Plaster said that he has seen how downtown redevelopment in other cities brought those communities together and he wants to do the same for Lenoir.
"I want to do everything I can based on what I learned in Asheville and as an architect to build up downtown Lenoir and the community," Plaster said. "Downtown Lenoir has come a long way in recent years. There have been a lot of fits and starts. Sometimes it seems like we take two steps forward and then one step back, but we're in a really good place right now."
Plaster said that the work he does is just one piece of the puzzle. It takes business owners, local residents, and City staff to keep the energy and momentum moving in Downtown Lenoir.
"The work I do is worthless without businesses to fill these buildings and people to come shop, and eat, and hang out in downtown," Plaster said. "At the end of the day, it’s a partnership between the businesses, the property owners, the residents, and the City to create a strong downtown."
A couple walk their dogs in front of 814 Harper Ave. in Downtown Lenoir. Plaster is currently renovating the building.
Plaster said he appreciates the help and work from City of Lenoir staff on his projects and other projects in Downtown Lenoir. Sometimes, redevelopers in other cities have a harder time.
"We have really strong support from City officials who go above and beyond to support downtown businesses and property owners," Plaster said. "And I can tell you from experience, that isn’t always the case. I’ve worked in other places where you almost have to fight City officials to make a good project happen."
Main Street Director Kaylynn Horn said she appreciates all the work Plaster has done in Downtown Lenoir.
"When you have someone who lives in your city, and they want to invest and improve properties, well, that's a good person to have in your community," Horn said. "Jesse has done a lot of great work in Downtown Lenoir. He loves the community, and he puts that love into action. That's why he was named our Main Street Champion this year."