Town leaders hope live music and beer will be the key to drawing more people downtown.
Wake Forest will launch Friday Night on White Street in April, a monthly event through September that will close White Street to traffic and welcome residents for music, shopping, food and drinks.
The events will be the same night as Art After Hours, in which downtown restaurants and art galleries offer special deals.
The goal of Friday Night on White Street is to bring more people downtown and keep them coming back, said Lisa Hayes, Wake Forest’s downtown development director. A similar beach music event last summer brought almost 10,000 people downtown.
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“We knew we wanted to take it up a notch,” Hayes said. “We want residents to see they don’t have to drive to Raleigh to enjoy live music and get a festival-like atmosphere.”
Friday Night on White Street events will be the first time the town allows people to drink alcohol on the public street. During previous outdoor music events, visitors who wanted to drink alcohol were required to stay indoors, Hayes said.
White Street Brewing Company, which Hayes said jump-started a lot of the recent revitalization downtown, is one of the sponsors of the event. Owner Dino Radosta said it’s always been part of the brewery’s mission to support efforts to breathe new life into downtown Wake Forest.
“I always thought this downtown was awesome,” said Radosta, who moved from New Orleans to Wake Forest in 1997.
Hayes said Radosta’s efforts show what can be done in the district’s old buildings. Downtown Wake Forest was a popular and successful town center until the 1950s, when Wake Forest University relocated to Winston-Salem. Many businesses closed.
In the 1970s, shopping malls became popular, and local stores suffered. In the 1980s, business owners began private efforts to revitalize the area. With the town’s help, downtown has steadily grown, Hayes said.
Wake Forest has completed streetscape projects in the downtown district, opened the Renaissance Centre and built a new multimillion-dollar town hall. It’s all an effort to keep the area growing and well-used.
“We hope once we get residents here, they’ll keep coming back,” Hayes said.