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Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

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Mount Airy granite to be used in New York park monument

(As seen in The Greater Triad Business Journal - May, 2011)

North Carolina Granite Corp. is adding another high-profile monument to its project list as it ships more than 100,000 cubic feet of the white stone to New York over the next year.

The granite, taken from the company’s 60-acre quarry in Mount Airy, will be used for the $45 million Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a project 30 years in the making and scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2012. The monument is on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River, just east of Manhattan.

"They liked our white color from the stone in our quarry," said William Swift, president and CEO of N.C. Granite Corp.

The company was also tapped recently to provide granite for the $15 million N.C. Veterans Park in Fayetteville, which is scheduled to open on July 4. Other monuments featuring rock from the N.C. Granite quarry include the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk, the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C. and monuments at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

The projects are helping the company, which has the largest open-faced granite quarry in the world, survive in a down market for its stone in more commercial applications such as building construction and curbs. It’s also helping the company sustain its staff of about 130.

"There’s some competition with glass and some other products out there," Swift said. "We have seen this year things sort of stabilizing. We’re seeing some signs of improvement."

The Roosevelt memorial project is expected to bring in between $7 million and $8 million to the company. N.C. Granite will be cutting and shipping stone for the memorial throughout this year and into 2012, including more than 70 pieces that measure 6 feet by 6 feet by 12 feet and weigh more than 70,000 pounds each.

The Roosevelt project was announced in 1973 and designed by architect Louis Kahn, but wasn’t funded until within the last several years. The design features granite throughout, with a centerpiece being an outdoor "room" on the southern end of the island that is framed by huge slabs of granite.

The granite cut from the 60-acre quarry for the project is being hauled by Yarbrough Transfer Co. of Winston-Salem to a port in New Jersey, where it is taken by barge to the island to be put in place.

Brian Dyer, president of Architectural Stone Products in Fredericksburg, Va., said the recession caught many stone companies off guard as demand on the commercial construction side dropped. The length of time N.C. Granite Corp., which was founded in the 1880s, has been in the business has given it an advantage over smaller, newer companies, Dyer said.

"Companies like N.C. Granite that had longer memories have done a lot better than the smaller ones," Dyer said.

Demand for stone used in public monuments remained relatively steady, in part because those projects often took advantage of falling construction costs to move ahead, he said. The demand for stone started to come back late last year as construction has started to pick up, Dyer said.

"It’s definitely started the upward ride," he said. "We lead the recession and lag coming out of it."