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Big medicine for downtown Greensboro?

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Since Chapel-Hill’s decision to place the long sought-after pharmacy school in Asheville, I’ve been left to ponder the idea of UNCG and Wingate working toward their own joint venture, much like UNCG and NC A&T University have already done. Would it be mutually beneficial for UNCG and Wingate to pool their collective ideas/resources/support in a collaborative effort to develop a joint pharmacy school… one which would include a research intensive component… in downtown Greensboro on the tract of land at Lee and South Elm streets that the city owns and is trying to develop? Is such a collaboration between a public and private institution too complicated or even feasible for that matter? Or should we just wait another two years and trust that Chapel Hill will then be able to justify placing a pharmacy school in Greensboro?

The loss of the proposed downtown pharmacy school really stung in more ways than I think most can imagine. With all of the energies that had been invested in the proposal, there is no way to take such a loss lightly; furthermore, I really don’t think that the city of Greensboro — collectively — should throw in the white towel just yet.

I, like many others, truly felt that UNCG’s proposal was quite compelling, and I’m having a hard time letting go of the notion of such an institution — with all of the tangibles and intangibles that it would bring — located in the center city. Would the Weaver Foundation be willing to offer its parcel

of land to Wingate if Wingate would be willing to develop its proposed pharmacy school in downtown Greensboro instead of Asheville? If the Weaver Foundation, for whatever reason(s), wouldn’t be willing to offer its parcel of land to the Wingate contingent, would the city of Greensboro be willing to step up and offer its much anticipated parcel of land at Lee and South Elm streets? Hard to think of a better tenant — along with a new consolidated residence for the Guilford County Department of Education — to co-anchor the development of the former brown fields.

Could the area south of Lee Street be marketed/developed primarily as an educational corridor of the center city? Is Wingate still committed to Asheville since its learning of Chapel Hill’s decision to place its own satellite pharmacy program in Asheville as well, instead of downtown Greensboro? Has such an idea been pitched to the Weaver Foundation? Given the support that the UNCG proposal had garnered locally, is it too unreasonable to suggest that Greensboro try to sell Wingate on the merits of downtown Greensboro for its pharmacy school since we were unable to sell Chapel Hill?

In a worst case scenario, Wingate could simply say thanks, but no thanks. And if Greensboro were to be lucky, Wingate could perhaps begin to entertain the idea of collaboration between the two. Sounds too good though doesn’t it?

But really, has Greensboro forgotten how to dream big? Has the city been forever relegated to the backburner of relevance? Should we just be content to have been in the running “again” once again? When are we ever going to endorse a real sense of urgency? How many “State of the City Mckinsey Reports” is it going to take to illustrate how lagging/underdeveloped Greensboro — downtown Greensboro in particular — is an urban community relative to its peer cities? How far has our center city really evolved?

Does Wingate want to be sharing a stage with Chapel Hill or standing on its own stage? Could they both actually subscribe to the clustering effect? Or is such reasoning simply irrelevant in this matter?

I really don’t know. But if the powers that be from Greensboro — downtown Greensboro in particular — do not approach Wingate regarding this matter, then we will forever be left to only wonder, “What if?” I personally find that a sad way to close the book on this issue.

Okay, so maybe we should just be patient and wait for the “next one” to come around. Trouble is, doors to such socio/ economic opportunities are never easy to open, so it pays to capitalize on any opening that has been established. Maybe I’m just dreaming, definitely bewildered.Granted, I’m not privy to all of the dynamics shaping Wingate’s decision. But at the same time, I don’t think this it the moment to stop inquiring either.

Ronnie Dotson lives in Greensboro

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