Greensboro, NC: Creating a Destination When You Don’t Have Water or a Major Highway Through Downtown

Greensboro, NC: Creating a Destination When You Don’t Have Water or a Major Highway Through Downtown

By: Zack Matheny, President, Downtown Greensboro Inc. //

Through CEOs for Cities, chamber led visits, and simple family travels, I have garnered so much respect and admiration for communities throughout the US.  I have notebooks full of photos taken while on tours or strolls, so many that they overflow at my office and to the delight of my wife, our home!  As I reflect over downtown Greensboro today and consider our future growth, I can see direct correlations between my experiences in other cities and downtown Greensboro’s projects and goals.

Downtown Greensboro is growing today with over $200 million in active developments with substantial public-private partnerships. As President of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated (DGI), I get the great opportunity to participate in these transformative projects leading our revitalization:

Tanger Performing Arts Center is a true public-private partnership between private donors and the City of Greensboro.  Private donors set the bar with over $35 million raised to support the design and construction of the new Arts Center to be built in downtown.  The total budget with City partnership through various funding mechanisms, constitutes an over $75 million new addition to our downtown.  Not only are we building this exciting new state of the art landmark, but we are reconfiguring outdated roadways and connecting downtown with neighborhoods close by as well as connecting with the newly constructed LeBauer Park. Our community team visited Arts Centers throughout the country and worked with the various communities to learn best practices in design and build.

LeBauer Park is a true gift from a special person.  Mrs. Carolyn Weill LeBauer, who passed away in March 2012, directed that assets from her estate be used “for the creation of a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of the general population of Greensboro, particularly children and their families.” LeBauer Park is located in the heart of downtown and will play in integral role in activity in our center city.  DGI is able to participate in this exciting project by serving on the board of the new park entity as well as through collaboration with the management committee and staff.

Auditorium-Entrance-FinalUnion Square Campus is scheduled to be completed in August of 2016 and will serve as our anchor on the South of Downtown. Union Square Campus is a key initiative of Opportunity Greensboro, a working group of leaders from Greensboro businesses, foundations and higher education institutions. This national model of collaboration is identifying and acting on opportunities to transform our wealth of educational assets into economic success.  We learned a tremendous amount form visiting the Spokane, WA campus that was a true catalyst for their downtown in maximizing the community’s intellectual assets.

Union Square will house a training and education for healthcare professions – primarily nursing — will comprise the first phase with initial key stakeholder/tenants: UNCG, NCA&T, GTCC, and Cone Health.  Nursing education at Union Square Campus will engage students at every level:  2-year Associates Degree, RN to BSN and accelerated BSN programs, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and continuing education certificate programs.

In my role with DGI, I am currently serving on the Union Square Phase II Steering Committee to determine feasibility for the next phase of this exciting campus.Unknown

Carroll at Bellemeade is the largest residential project with the first hotel in downtown Greensboro since the mid 1980’s.  Residential growth is a key component of our plan for downtown Greensboro and this development, the largest private development in our history estimated at over $50 million, will include almost 300 apartments and the new Hyatt hotel.  DGI is working with the project owner, Carroll Companies, the City of Greensboro and the neighboring area to determine the highest and best use for placemaking including activating the sidewalks and streetscaping.  Key features we are collaborating on include new public art pieces and availability of commercial kiosks to promote pedestrian activity along this major corridor avenue through our downtown.

simple 11x17 mapDowntown Greenway is a planned 4-mile walking and biking trail that when fully completed will serve as the connector of surrounding neighborhoods and Greensboro center city. This urban loop around  downtown Greensboro will enhance the urban landscape with a green space that will promote fitness, connectedness, and well-being for both our residents and visitors in an aesthetically pleasing environment.  The loop places an emphasis on public art that will tell stories and engage users of the trail and Greensboro community in a unique and authentic way.  Since the Greenway began development has increased significantly, adding major residential developments, gathering spaces, and promoting wellness.  We saw first-hand the importance of finishing the loop and what will come with it through our visit to Indianapolis and learning about their Cultural Trail.  For DGI, I serve on the Greenway Oversight committee striving to complete the Greenway and promote the development opportunities in an effort to continue to enhance the highest and best uses for our downtown.

There are many additional transformative projects happening in downtown, including, UNCG ART, the Forge Maker Space, and new office and merchant growth, etc. Which leads me to a question I constantly as myself; how can we ensure all of these transformative and vibrant projects are connected throughout our center city?  One of the key ways we are going to achieve this is through a partnership we developed through CEO’s for Cities conference travels – City Artists in Residence.

City Artist in Residence (CAIR) is an innovative approach tasked to bring a place-based, artistic perspective to public space management, CAIR will collaborate on DGI initiatives, consult in the planning of streetscape enhancements, transportation, wayfinding, and other improvements to public right of way.  This exciting partnership will engage public and private interests in advancing the aesthetics of downtown public spaces in order to advance walkability, perceived safety, economic, and social vitality. CAIR will bring artists and communities into the center of the placemaking process as a means to forwarding the present values of our place, enhance overlooked and underutilized spaces, and foster a sophisticated and socially engaged urban community.

Downtown Greensboro is thriving thanks to organizations like CEO’s for Cities, cooperating communities, strategic public private partnerships and respect amongst the different organizations making positive things happen.

Photo credit is Lynn Donovan

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