As a young girl, Emily-Kate Hannapel was constantly rearranging her room – shifting furniture, changing color and envisioning new spaces.

Twenty years later, Hannapel is scratching that creative itch in a unique and impactful way, one main street at a time.

A graduate student in UNCG’s Department of Interior Architecture, Hannapel is part of a team led by Interior Architecture Professor and Director of Graduate Study Jo Leimenstoll that has been hired as the primary designer for the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center. The goal? Help towns across North Carolina create vibrant, thriving main streets.

Over the next three years, Leimenstoll’s team of graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students will visit 94 communities across the state to redesign storefronts, convert vacant upper stories into residential and office spaces and develop best practices for small businesses.

Students and faculty looking at designs on computer

The NC Main Street team reviews designs for an upcoming project. From left to right: Emily-Kate Hannapel, Kayla Carter, Professor Jo Leimenstoll and Alex Brigman.

“We’ll be getting hands-on design experience that will have a positive impact on towns across the state,” Hannapel said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity.”

The center and its two main street redevelopment programs – the NC Main Street Program and NC Small Town Main Street Program – are part of an initiative launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980. Over the past 36 years, more than 5,500 building renovations and 5,500 facade improvements have taken place in Main Street and Small Town Main Street districts.

Each year, the team expects to complete at least 50 storefront designs and four upper-story designs in designated Main Street and Small Town Main Street communities.

“This is a great community engagement opportunity for students,” Leimenstoll said. “Our team will be visiting towns, talking to property owners, creating designs and then presenting those designs.”

According to Liz Parham, director of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center, the Department of Interior Architecture’s emphasis on historic preservation really sets it apart from other departments and programs in the state.

“We’ve known of the good work at UNCG for many years,” Parham said. “Our plans to provide not only storefront redesign but design assistance for upper story redevelopment and retail layout make UNCG the perfect partner.”

For Leimenstoll, who helped launch the NC Main Street Program and served as the program’s first architect, her career has come full circle with this new partnership.

“I loved working with the towns. It was so rewarding,” she said. “It’s really special to be able to work with the program again in this way.”

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Chris Snow, Photography Intern, University Relations