Public Meeting Brings Ideas to Restoring Cairo

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By Evie Allen
By Andy Shofstall

CAIRO -- The community of Cairo came together for the first steps in a comprehensive plan to revitalize the city.

Cairo has long been a community in decline. Fifty years ago about 10,000 people lived in the Alexander County town. Today, it's less than 3,000. Jobs and quality of life have disappeared along with population.    

Dozens of people filled the Cairo High School cafeteria Thursday night with one goal in mind, change. Community members and concerned citizens met with a redevelopment firm working on a plan to turn around the town.

"The people here are still family and unity is very vital. It's just going to take some work to get back to where we were but I see progress," says resident Steven Tarver.

Tarver grew up in Cairo but moved away when he was a kid. 

"I'm so glad to see people taking an interest in Cairo."

He's been back for nearly two years and believes Thursday's meeting is a good step in the right direction.

"My goal was to come back to see if we can rebuild and get back to that state that we had before," said Tarver.

Leading the meeting is Dwight Norton with GCR, a consulting firm out of New Orleans. He shared data he's collected about housing, transportation, land use and natural resources. Norton says the community should not be discouraged by the empty buildings and lots.

"People should feel like, you know it is tragic what has happened in the past but here's a new opportunity," he says.

Tarver already has ideas, like building a youth center.

"I also would like to see a movie theater, a bowling alley, an arcade and computer center," he adds.

Even though the city has a long way to go, Tarver says the meeting is enough to inspire hope.

"If we can carry each and every one of us at the same time and we grow together, this community will grow and flourish and then people will start coming back and they'll be proud to call it home again," he says.

The consulting group will team with volunteers for a land survey Saturday morning. All are welcome. Participants should meet at the Cairo public library at 9 a.m. 

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