Public input sought on Merchants Commerce Center

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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GATESVILLE – Gates County citizens will have several opportunities to offer their opinions on what types of businesses/services are most needed in Merchants Commerce Center.

The county finalized the purchase of that 144-acre property last year and have contracted the services of SUMMIT Engineering and Design to devise a conceptual plan.

Anne Darby of SUMMIT Engineering and Design attended last week’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. There she noted that a concept plan has been drafted, one that shows potential development to the property on each side and behind the current facilities already in use (State Employees Credit Union, China King Restaurant, Gates House (assisted living), and the Gates County Public Library. That conceptual plan includes space for the potential use for the following:

Grocery store (40,000 square feet)

Commercial use

Fitness Center (20,000 square feet)

Residential townhomes

Community building

Senior Center

Food Truck & Flea Market area

Pavilion with restrooms

Village Green


Office Building

Overflow event parking

Light manufacturing

Trail with benches & exercise stations

Stormwater ponds

Future business development

Now, SUMMIT wants to hear from the public as to what they envision for this property.

A public engagement forum is scheduled for Thursday, April 27 at the county’s Public Library, located at 14 Cypress Creek Drive. There are two sessions planned that day: 12 noon until 2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m.

Darby will attend both sessions to answer questions and provide additional information.

Attendees can also use those sessions to fill out an online survey, using the public computers at the library. The results of that survey will help SUMMIT and county officials learn more about what county citizens would like to see at Merchants Commerce Center.

“This is a public participation process,” Darby said. “We’re seeking your input.”

She added that paper copies of the survey would be made available for those who do not wish to fill out the one online.

“We’ve already had 240 survey responses in a week and a half,” Darby said. “That’s incredible. It shows that the people here care about this development. That’s a good sign.”

Darby said there would be additional opportunities for Gates County citizens to learn more about the plans and to take the survey. She is currently working with county officials to find community events scheduled in all five of the county’s voting precincts.

“We may make a brief presentation at those community events, but our main job there will be to listen,” Darby stressed. “A small area plan such as this is a combination of analytical data – there’s a lot of thoughts and feelings involved – and we also bring in more qualitative data, which includes socioeconomics and demographics. We know that some feel very nervous to offer information about their race, their age, and their income. We ask that because we need a representative slice of the community. No one person’s answer means more than another.”

Darby said at the end of the community involvement process, a summary will be created to of what feedback was received through the survey.

“We will then work with our planners and our architectural team to make recommendations based on that input,” Darby closed. “All feedback is good feedback.”

Those who are unable to attend either of the April 27 sessions or a pending community event within their voting precinct can take the survey online by visiting the Gates County website ( and click on the Survey Link listed under the Hot Topics section.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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