Warehouse Square (pictured) recently underwent changes that include new benches, a bike rack and an information board as part of an effort by the city of Oxford to increase downtown’s walkability and encourage more citizens to use the space.

OXFORD — With COVID-19 restrictions easing around North Carolina, residents in Oxford will now have an opportunity to enjoy the renovations made to Currin Park and Old Wearhouse Square.

The renovations were spearheaded by Downtown Development Director Mary Yount in an effort to promote a more friendly, walkable environment in the city that allows residents to take in everything Oxford has to offer.

“We want to make [downtown] Oxford pedestrian-friendly,” Oxford Mayor Jackie Sergent said. “That includes places to sit, chat, relax and enjoy yourself — not just come, park, get what you need and drive away.”

Currin Park initially had a large holly tree at both entrances but Yount believed the hollies obscured too much of the area’s natural view, which in turn limited the amount of people who actually walked through the park.

The city cut down both hollies, and lights were strung up between the two buildings on each side of Currin Park. That’s also enabled residents to get a better view of the crepe myrtles that grow there.

Sergent said that the renovations to Currin Park have more than accomplished Yount’s goal for the area, as more people are now properly taking advantage of the area’s beauty during the daylight and nighttime hours.

“People are now using that space,” Sergent said. “They can pick up their sandwiches from Strong Arm Baking and they can sit down on the walls and enjoy their sandwiches outside if there isn’t enough seating inside the building. The lights at night completely change a pedestrian’s desire to go through there. It was a very simple but dramatic change.”

For Warehouse Square, the city implemented a multitude of changes such as new benches, a bike rack and an information board that will allow pedestrians to gather information on any special events taking place in downtown Oxford.

Sergent believed that Warehouse Square was in need of a fresh start when it came to its scenery and plant life over the past several years, adding that early reception to the renovations in the space has already been positive.

“A local attorney who has an office on that lot called me and said that [Old Warehouse Square] looks so much better,” Sergent said. “The entire section was looking really bedraggled, so Mary worked to get two new benches and a concrete slab placed for each one of them amongst the crepe myrtles. Everything is remulched and it just looks nice.”

Sergent said that Downtown Oxford Economic Development Corp. has always strived to make the city an ideal location for people to gather. Even though the pandemic temporarily stymied that mission, Sergent is confident that those goals will be met once again now that people are becoming more comfortable with travelling outside.

There are currently no plans for similar renovations in downtown Oxford but Sergent is looking forward to seeing people interact with each other and enjoy the revamped Currin Park and Warehouse Square during the spring and summer months.

“We’re devoted to continuing to focus on making downtown as accessible and inviting to our community and the people around it as possible,” Sergent said.