Economic Dev. Summit Focuses on the EastBy Chantelle Grady
Published: November 1, 2012
Mayor Robbie Perkins and Greensboro City Council members held the inaugural East Greensboro Summit on Monday, October 29, at Dudley High School to update the public on economic development efforts for the eastern half of the city.
A large crowd came out, in less than desirable weather, filling a sizable portion of Dudley’s auditorium. Greensboro’s city manager, Denise Turner Roth, moderated the event. Roth called the summit a, “Great opportunity for dialogue.”
District two councilman, Jim Kee, pointed out that eight of the nine city council members were at the forum. District five councilwoman, Trudy Wade (who’s running for the State Senate), was absent.
Attendees viewed a power point presentation that showed the city’s plans for the South Elm Street corridor, near downtown and east Lee Street. The $40 million mixed-use project would include: Apartments, a hotel, and 15,000 square feet of retail and nearly 100,000 square feet of office space. The city plans to make revitalizing Phillips Avenue a priority as well. The stretch of road in northeast Greensboro between Elwell and Summit Avenue is expected to see a major face-lift. There is also a plan underway to open a Dollar General on Phillips Avenue. Bessemer Center, the former home to a long-closed Winn Dixie, is slated to go through a major renovation. The city is currently in talks with a grocer about moving into the space, however, no deal has been signed. The city had previously been in talks with the Save-A-Lot grocery chain to open in the Bessemer Center, but those plans fell apart when Save-A-Lot decided Phillips Avenue was too close to their other store location in the Palmer Plaza shopping center on Yanceyville Street.
The city owns the Bessemer Center property and the space formerly occupied by the McGirt-Horton Library branch was altered for Family Dollar. Several years ago, area residents with the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro presented a plan for the shopping center, promoting a rebirth of the blighted strip. The group even proposed changing the strip’s name to the Renaissance Center, something re-iterated Monday night by former councilwoman Dr. Goldie Wells, chair of Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice (CEEJ). Consultant Michael Tabb, managing partner with Red Rock Global in Atlanta, updated the community on the city’s recent parity study process. Tabb explained that, while his team deals with statistics, those statistics don’t always paint an accurate picture of an area. He said that companies often use research information based on misperceptions about an area.
Developers want to go where the highest incomes are. Tabb expressed that there are major arteries in east Greensboro that should play a huge role in the area’s growth plans. “We cannot do this in a small way,” he emphasized, “To make a true catalytic difference, you have to think big.”
The mayor said that this first summit was a chance for city government, “to show our citizens that they count,” and that, “The future of Greensboro starts today.” Mayor Perkins stressed that jobs needed to be generated all over Greensboro, and that all communities need to be connected.
The parity study the city conducted was a major topic covered during the summit. Greensboro’s population currently stands at 272,128, and the median income is $44,009. Folk in east Greensboro earn about half the income of those in the west, putting them at less than the median income for the city.
Perkins said that’s not enough to attract major companies to the city. In other words, Greensboro has to step up its game. The city has targeted three areas it believes are the right focal points to do just that: Piedmont Triad International Airport, Downtown and east Greensboro. Some residents voiced concerns during the summit’s Q&A portion, about how east Greensboro would benefit from the proposed performing arts center. The mayor said jobs would be created, because the center will have to have a staff running the center. He also said that the city has to be prepared to offer amenities comparable to neighboring cities. Perkins continued by telling the audience that, “One of the weaknesses in east Greensboro is connectivity,” citing the need for infrastructure upgrades.
Many of the attendees who stepped up to speak conveyed their skepticism about the council’s commitment to east Greensboro. Some were outright contentious with the mayor, while others spoke up to offer their own ideas for solutions for what ails the city’s eastside. Nancy Cavanaugh, a resident of northeast Greensboro’s Brightwood neighborhood, asked that her community not be forgotten. Cavanaugh called Brightwood, “A working poor neighborhood,” and went on to say, “We will work with you (city council), and we ask that you remember us.”