AYDEN, N.C. (WNCT) – Downtown Ayden Inc. is a community organization that aims to grow the historic downtown Ayden area, the group released their 2023 goals for the year recently.

“So, what we want to do is to increase visitors to Ayden, have more people in Ayden, of course more business means more productivity, the economy grows,” said Downtown Ayden Inc. Vice President Doris Conner.

Downtown Ayden Inc. said they have three goals for 2023: becoming the destination for Eastern North Carolina barbecue, reduce empty storefronts by 20 percent, and make the downtown area more walkable.

Some businesses in Ayden’s downtown said that bringing more stores in could help those already existing in the area.

“Giving resources for our community is what is going to make ultimately all of us succeed,” said Sarah Coltrain of Coltrain Home and Hardware.

Those with the Town of Ayden said many of those goals were already underway.

“We’re already leaps and bounds ahead of that… we have, by the last count, 3 empty storefronts. One of which is under a lease, one which has been purchased and will start in rehabbing in the next 12 months, and one is still for sale,” Economic Development Director for the Town of Ayden Mallory Denham.

But some projects, like improving walkability, are still in the works.

“We still have a lot of work to do on the walkability study, but it will be a downtown walk where you can spend 15 minutes walking or up to 2 hours walking. It’ll take you all around downtown, so it’s a pretty neat project,” said Denham.