Downtown New Bern buildings get visual facelift


NEW BERN, Craven County - If you've walked in downtown New Bern, you've seen through the windows to the empty rundown interior of the Elks Building. A new program is making those eyesores a little more pleasant.

New vinyl wraps are being placed where the one thriving building sits. The building's owner lives in Raleigh and hasn't figured out a plan for the inside. So the city's Downtown Business Council and Swiss Bear Downtown Development decided to work around it.

"A lot of people who were coming in from out of town when they saw this big empty building," said Lynne Harakal, Executive Director of the Swiss Bear Downtown Development. "It was kind of a road block to continue down Middle Street and the shops and restaurants that are closer to Broad Street"

The idea for vinyl wraps in the windows came from one business council member who saw a similar concept in Mount Airy. They then worked with local photographers to put together images that represent New Bern, like Tryon Palace and the tower at City Hall.

"I always like to say that downtown is the front porch of the city," said John Bircher, Chairman of the Swiss Bear Downtown Development. "Everybody sees the front porch and if it looks good then they want to come inside and see what that looks like."

Swiss Bear hopes going forward it will help get the century-old building back to its former glory.

"Our main focus as an organization is to make sure buildings that aren't utilized or are under utilized to become maxed out to their full potential," Bircher said. "We're working closely with the owner, hes been very cooperative with the building wrap."

The project was fully funded by Swiss Bear and cost about $4,000 to finish.