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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Hughes

Lowell invests ARP funds in growing community spaces, improving City Hall functions

Updated: Jun 20

The City of Lowell sits along I-85 in Gaston County, just outside of Charlotte. The city of approximately 3,500 residents has seen a lot of growth in recent years and has made a point of finding creative ways to invest in improving their community spaces.

When the city found out they would receive over $1.18 million in ARP funds, they set to work determining how to best use these dollars to invest in their growing community. ARP funds were distributed to municipalities from the federal government as a way to promote revitalization following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities and towns were tasked with finding ways to invest these dollars into their communities, providing opportunity for major improvements to infrastructure and other projects that may not have been feasible without these funds.

“We are very excited about the diverse array of projects that we were able to pay for with the ARPA funds. Projects were identified by City of Lowell staff and City Council and spanned a wide spectrum of initiatives aimed at enhancing our community's infrastructure, facilities, services, and overall well-being,” Cristy Cummings, Lowell Communications Director, said. “The best part is that these projects were not funded by local tax dollars, but rather through federal ARPA funds. Not only did this take the burden off of our taxpayers, but it truly expanded the scope of what we can do.”

These funds are now going to a variety of initiatives that will provide benefits to the city that are far reaching and will help prepare them for their future. Generally, the city focused on investing in two main areas: updates to facilities and processes at City Hall and new initiatives in their Parks & Recreation department.

To start, Lowell used ARP funds to invest in a master plan for their downtown district and for city parks in order to ensure it is moving in a direction the fits residents’ needs and desires. The master plan was also instrumental in securing an additional $1 million grant from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Land & Water Conservation Fund to begin renovations on Harold Rankin Park in the near future. This plan includes additions and improvements to the sports fields and courts, expanding the playground, and adding new walkways and restrooms.

Recreation facility rendering

Next to this park, ARP dollars were used to purchase the city’s first recreational facility at the site of the former Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club property. This project will include the renovation of the property to house the city’s Parks & Recreation Department and offer new recreational programs for city residents. This project has been in the works since the master plan was released in 2022, and the recent relocation of the Boys & Girls Club opened up the right opportunity for the city to make a move.

Lowell took a small portion of the funds to create a downtown park area, now known as McCord Family Park. This area had formerly been simply a grass lot, but with dollars from ARP, the city transformed the area into a green space park, complete with benches and a covered picnic table area which can double as a concert stage. It is also where the city now holds its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.

In the final parks and recreation project, the city of Lowell will become a part of the Carolina Thread Trail, which connects nearly 500 miles of trails, greenways, and blueways across 15 counties in North and South Carolina. Lowell was chosen by the Carolina Thread Trail to receive a grant that would connect the trail to city parks and the sidewalk on North Main Street. The city used ARP funds to match a portion of the more than $125,000 grant. This project is expected to begin at the end of 2024.

In addition to parks and recreation, the city has taken on a number of projects to streamline the city’s operations. Currently, Lowell City Hall is running low on space, making it difficult to hire additional needed employees. ARP funds secured a new property that will ultimately be the location of the City Hall and Police Department.  Since this will be a larger project that will take several years to complete, the city also invested some of the funds into renovating their current space, which has allowed them to hire some new positions that will help the city run more efficiently.

“Even with renovating our downstairs, we're still sharing offices. […] And then police have completely outgrown their facility, so that'll be good to have a much larger facility,” Cummings said. “Our Council chambers where we have our Council meetings, the room only has 20 seats for residents to come and actually sit down. The room is so small, so we'll actually have a larger facility for people to be able to come in and watch the meetings.”

Additional measures taken by the city to become more efficient include a new software used to create a better utility bill format, plus a machine that will prepare these bills and other items for mailing. Investments such as these often have up-front costs that make them out of reach for some towns, even if they will save money in the long-run. Having the funds from ARP at their disposal gave Lowell an opportunity to take this step that will pay off for them in the future as they will be better situated to easily collect utility payments and to more effectively communicate with the town.

Finally, Lowell is in the process of renovating its 100-year-old Community Center, which is often used for parties, showers, and other gatherings, but has been closed since 2020. The building is designated as a historical site, making repairs both costly and time-consuming. The ARP funds provided the means for the city to repair this important piece of Lowell’s history and will soon reopen as an improved gathering place for residents.

Ultimately, Lowell desired to show its residents that they have been intentional in investing in projects that will enable greater community-building and more efficiency by the town leaders. They have taken federal funds that would not have otherwise been available, and used them to prepare the town for the continued growth they expect to see in the years to come.


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