A surprising position on the GPAC

by YES! Staff

We weighed in quickly on the proposed Greensboro downtown performing arts center when the news broke. “The performing arts center can wait,” we said in this space in April. In May, we conceded that the GPAC would be a certainty, but lamented the process and the will to get it done ahead of other, more practical projects. We hit it again in June, opining that the Carolina Theatre should be the recipient of the funds, with the caveat, “[W]e’re still not convinced this is the right thing to do.”

Time has passed. Considerations have been made. We’ve looked at our institutional history, past editorial stances on big-ticket projects like this and how they played out. We’re ready to take a position, and frankly we’re a little surprised where we landed on this one.

Downtown Greensboro needs a performing arts center, the sooner the better, and we don’t think the issue should go to a voter’  referendum. The decision is better left to the people we elected to take steward- ship of the city.

We realize this seems counterintuitive, but we have our reasons, both historical and ideological, for coming to this decision.

The decision is better left to the people we elected to take stewardship of the city.

Voters turned down a bond the aquatic center twice, before a sneaky city council couched it in a parks & recreation bond, creating distrust and ill will between city departments and among citizens. But the swim center has exceeded all expectations, with twice as many events as initially predicted.

We doubt the naysayers could have foreseen that, any more than they could have foreseen the success of our downtown baseball park, which created a rift in the city during its planning stages but is now one of the most successful ballparks of its size in the country, based on attendance figures. Its team, the Grasshoppers, won the championship last year. Meanwhile it’s hard to find anyone in Greensboro these days who says he was against the ballpark.

Are there other projects that need to be undertaken? Good lord yes — the Cone Boulevard extension needs to be completed in the next year or so, when the urban loop comes through, bringing traffic and commerce to a long-neglected quadrant of the city.

There are entire neighborhoods without sidewalks and grocery stores. And a handful of existing bonds languish in limbo. Anyone remember the skatepark bond, passed in 2006 and then apparently abandoned? Or the $134 million street-improvement bond from 2008, that has yet to be fully realized?

We should add that we find Mayor Robbie Perkins’ zeal for this project to be off-putting and more than a little suspect — he is in the real estate business, after all.

But on this one he’s right. If we claim to be a progressive, midsized city; if we want to attract corporations and retain the young people who live here; if we want to be considered as one of the biggest and best metro areas in the state, we need a modern performing arts center, the jobs it will create and the jobs it will attract.

The naysayers already gather, online and elsewhere, with a plan to thwart this facility by vote, just as they have every time the city tries to do something great. This time we should shut them down before they have a chance to do it again.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .