MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Evans Street in Morehead City has been voted the greatest main street in the state.
The selection is the culmination of years of efforts to revitalize the downtown area and while there have been changes, locals say some things stay the same.
The Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant has been a staple on the waterfront for almost 80 years, and John Tunnell has worked there for 72 of them.
“When I first started working here — we called them cafes back then — there was only five cafes in the whole county,” said Tunnell. “Now there’s 10 cafes within walking distance of the Sanitary. 10.”
It was that growth that caught the attention of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association and led to the city being named as the greatest main street in their 2017 Great Places in North Carolina Awards Program.
For Lisa Rueh, executive director of the Downtown Morehead City Revitalization Association, it’s an award years in the making.
It was “just a vision, having a community vision of what we’d like downtown Morehead City to look like,” said Rueh. “Taking people like Big Rock Blue Marlin to come in and build their offices and center things down around the fountain. And businesses taking pride in their storefronts.”
Tunnell said the city’s waterfront has also helped.
“I love the charter boats too — the fishing boats,” said Tunnell. “And we always have the seafood festival on Evans Street That’s a big thing. Brings a lot of people to Morehead.”
Carteret County as a whole is a popular spot for tourists all over, but what is exciting to Rueh is so many people, including young professionals, are starting to call downtown Morehead City home.
“The younger people are wanting to come back to downtown,” said Rueh. “They’re wanting to live on the second levels. They’re wanting everything they need to be right in their community. And that’s what we’re aiming for. we’re aiming to attract residents that will live downtown.”
A younger generation making their homes along Evans Street, is just another sign of how the area continues to change.
And that’s okay for Tunnell, a man who has spent most of his life right there.
“Evans Street’s been very good to me,” Tunnell said.