Infill and they will come

Greensboro continues to struggle with its essence. Is it a college town positioning itself for a new burst of creative growth? Is it a sleepy hollow run by bankers and developers, real estate agents and insurance brokers?

Perhaps there is a third way. Young people increasingly prefer to live in dense urban environments. National media have discussed trends that show the incidence of home buying and new vehicle purchases could face a fate as bad as newspapers in the near future as Twentysomethings eschew big ticket purchases, either because they just don’t have the money or because of an urbanist aesthetic propagated by pop culture and a need to be clustered with like-minded peers.

With infrastructure costs for new greenfield developments — those out in neatly mowed pastures or among strands of trees just waiting to be chopped down — rising ever higher, and a public growing tired of financing developer dreams, the idea of infill development is taking hold.

Infill is the development of land within built-up areas of a city where infrastructure is in place. It’s not a one-size fit’s all answer, given that each site would have a unique context within its existing surroundings.

Examples in Greensboro of infill development include large projects like the Spartan Village campus expansion at UNCG, which saw the university invest $200 million in new student housing and mixed-use development along Lee Street. Infill success stories also involve smallscale projects like the Magnolia Place at Fisher Park condominium project. In this instance, a 12-unit condominium building, a duplex and a detached house replaced a single-story preschool. Completed in 2006, the context-sensitive site design brought $2.2 million in new tax value to a previously under valued site.

Perhaps the big box developers among us should educate themselves on the countless opportunities in Greensboro to give neighborhoods an about face for the 21st century. !

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