Preserving a Piece of Ocracoke's Waterfront
Since 2008 the Ocracoke Foundation, Inc. (OFI) has been working with the Trust for Public Land and the Senseney Family on a way to preserve and protect an important part of island heritage – the Community Square.
Many early island photos show daily life centered on the shores of Cockle Creek, now Silver Lake. The community walked there, worked on boats, unloaded fish, picked up mail and bought ice and groceries. At the Zini and Lola Williams House rainwater was collected in cisterns then piped across the sandy path (now Highway 12) to the ice plant (Ice Cream Shop). While we can’t recreate those moments, we can save this special place.
In 2010 OFI began talking with the Hutcherson Family, and in 2011 added the Zini and Lola Williams house to the project for the possibilities of providing wastewater improvements for public restrooms, a dedicated boat pump-out, and a community kitchen for a variety of potential uses including value-added development for Ocracoke Seafood Company.
The Community Square Project has the potential to bring together key elements like long term working waterfront access, open availability for public use, a model for improved environmental practices, a space for community events and a source of dedicated funding for community needs.
Protective easements will be put in place to secure the property for future generations. However, the recent North Carolina legislative cut in funds that historically were available for communities such as ours will make the effort to purchase the Square complex.
The acquisition budget for both properties is $2,295,000 (including closing costs) and is based on current appraisal values. Our funding approach is focused on state, federal and private foundation grants whose criteria are consistent with rural community needs such as job retention and creation, public recreation, waterfront access, environmental improvements and economic sustainability. The income stream derived from the leases at the Community Square can be used for debt service on a portion of the acquisition costs but the majority of lease income, in our opinion, must be set aside for projects and needs within the community. To find out more about project funding specifics or if you want to become involved, please contact Ocracoke Foundation, Inc.
Answers to Recent Questions:
Will OFI pay real estate taxes? Yes.
What will happen to the existing tenants?
Tenants remain, all existing leases honored.
What will tenants pay?
There will be no change in rent structure under the current lease agreements.
Will OFI own any of the existing or new businesses?
No, other than ownership of the properties.
Who will manage the properties? This will be decided once we get closer to a closing date.
When you say “renovate” and “improve site”, what do you mean?
Renovate: We anticipate some structural repairs, paint, possibly window restoration but no major changes will be made to the historic structures.
Improve Site: Storm water and wastewater repair, shoreline restoration, and safer dock areas are improvements to the infrastructure. A design improvement may be getting rid of the asphalt and bringing back the concrete, using only plants that would have grown at the site earlier, create natural areas as opposed to hard surfaces, overall the goal is to go back to a simpler look that is more consistent with old Ocracoke.
Are donations accepted?
Yes ! OFI has received $20,000 in donations towards their Phase I goal of $64,615.00 for: a business plan [completed], appraisals [completed], outreach [in progress], and mandated site requirements including surveys, engineering, environmental assessments and architectural work. All donations are tax deductible. Please visit www.ocracokefoundation.org.
Searching for Photos and Stories
We are looking for vintage photos to build an archive! If you have photos, slides, or newspapers of the Community Store, Ice Plant, Tideland Office or generator, Aleta, Jack’s Store or the William’s House – we’ll scan them and return quickly.
Securing the Square has as much to do with remembering the past as it does securing the future. Photos help explain to our visitors how special certain places are and the important role they played in island life and still do.