2014: A growth year for Triad cities

by YES! Staff

Happy new year, and welcome 2014! Yes, the state of North Carolina has turned crimson red (and not the radical left kind), while the cities are ever more bastions of blue. The change has been underway since 2010, but consolidated in 2013, when the GOP took control of the executive branch and both legislative houses of state government.

In the political year of 2014, the Republican-controlled General Assembly would be well advised to give teachers a raise if they want to contain Moral Monday outrage to the Democratic districts and not risk a backlash among their own constituents. They’ll win reelection and improve Pat McCrory’s chances to be a two-term governor if they do it.

Strangely enough, in the great re-sorting the cities have become ever-more progressive. Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point are growing, along with the rest of the state, albeit not as fast as red-hot Raleigh or powerhouse Charlotte. And Durham has overtaken Winston-Salem as the fourth largest city. There’s a something here that people like — a mix of copacetic climate, tolerant attitudes, economic opportunity, affordability, some natural beauty and a certain cultural vibrancy.

The value proposition of North Carolina cities, as exemplified by Greensboro and Winston-Salem, along with Durham, but not necessarily High Point, is that you’ll find a thriving farmer’s market, art museums and galleries, decent bars, bike-able streets, nice parks and solid schools in each. Improving on those qualities — and encouraging growth — can only benefit all of us.

To these ends, Greensboro leaders should work to complete the performing arts center — and yes, join the club with Durham. The process that generated the initiative wasn’t democratic or inclusive, but it’s happening. Fortunately, the private sector has stepped up to foot much of the bill, which is appropriate because private interests will reap much of the benefit. Many citizens will be priced out of ticketing, and the employment gains will be generally low-wage service and hospitality jobs. But the facility will add luster to the city’s brand, and improve its tax base.

Winston-Salem should seriously consider an Urban Circulator, which could boost areas along the rim of downtown that sorely need reinvestment and could create connectivity between government, education and healthcare institutions in a way that transcends the city’s legacy of division.

The city of High Point and High Point University should take the big plunge and implement some of the urban planner Andres Duany’s more inventive plans. As noted in this space previously, Duany has said of the Pit: “The improvised nature of this gathering spot, on seemingly forgotten land amidst parking structures, is so unlikely that it immediately establishes this place as cool — in a way that Greensboro and Winston-Salem are not.”

Do it. Fix up the Pit. And transform the moribund Oak Hollow Mall into an incubator for young makers and innovators. Finally, chop up those shipping containers and seed the underused parking lots with guerilla commerce.

2014 should be the year of bold investment in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. !

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