Candidate focuses on D1’s businesses

by Jordan Green

District 1 candidate Charles Dayton Coffey has found himself at the center of an eco-nomic renaissance of sorts on Lee Street.

As plant machinist for Industries of the Blind, Coffey works directly across the street from the Lofts on Lee, a a new multi-use development with student apartments and ground-floor retail space. The new storefront remains empty but Coffey said about 60 percent of the apartments have been rented.

“I envision a Trader Joe’s, a Fresh Market satellite or a Deep Roots Market satellite there,” Coffey said. “The Glenwood neighborhood would support that heavily. Plan B would be a restaurant — not high-end, but something the students could patronize.”

As president of the Lee Street Merchants Association and someone active with neighborhood associations, Coffey has kept abreast of many of the city’s redevelopment initiatives in south-central Greensboro and acted as a liaison between city government and its residents and businesses. Running in a crowded field against incumbent Dianne Bellamy- Small and four other challengers, Coffey hopes his third attempt at the seat will be the charm.

The candidate said cooperation among the merchants has helped reduce crime and encourage reinvestment.

“Networking is what we all need to do,” he said. “I encourage neighborhoods to watch out for each other. You can do it a block at a time.”

Coffey has had his hand in three geographically proximate initiatives that might otherwise have found themselves at odds with each other had the participants not worked together.

“I’ve been heavily involved in the UNCG master plan, the High Point Road/East Lee Street corridor redevelopment plan and the Glenwood revitalization effort,” Coffey said. “I’m trying to keep it meshed together. I think it’s worked.”

As a neighborhood business leader with a vested interest in public safety, Coffey has come to admire the Greensboro Police Department and has become friendly with some of its officers. He said he would like to bring some closure to the lengthy controversy that has beset the department with dozens of black officers suing the city for discrimination.

“Let’s bring all these things out in the open, mediate this and bring it to a close,” Coffey said. “I haven’t talked to anybody in the police department about this controversy, but I’m thinking in the back of my head that these are respectable people that have been compelled to join the others.”

Coffey said he has long advocated for hiring more police officers so that the department can do a better job of patrolling neighborhoods. “I think it’s something that needs to be studied and looked at,” he said. “Once we decide, we can get a better picture of what it’s going to cost.”

Coffey said he is also concerned with environmental remediation, both as a hindrance to redevelopment and as a public health hazard. He is disappointed that upgrades to Barber Park were delayed because the city discovered contaminants at the last minute.

“I’m hoping that we’ll test other areas to make sure they don’t have other issues,” he said. “Whether I get elected or not, I’m going to advocate for that. That’s public health. It’s that important.”

Coffey said his key asset is his ability to listen. “I went to all these neighborhood meetings so I can hear what people say,” he said.

“That’s so I can formulate a plan. My opinion is not so important as everyone else’s.”