Editorial: A Triumph for Whom, Exactly?
What this town needs is a marching band.
Think of it… the tubas… the drumline… over a thousand reeds springing up like weeds… horns of every shape and size.
That’s how the hustler, “Professor” Harold Hill, bamboozled the good citizens of River City: selling the yokels on the virtues of a humdinger of a marching band, going oompah up and down the square.
This didn’t actually happen. It’s the plot of The Music Man, a 1957 Broadway musical – we even pinched some of the lyrics. And those who don’t study The Music Man are doomed to repeat it.
In Greensboro, plans are afoot. Rumors and vague news items surround a proposed $300 million complex – the Greensboro Triumph Center, which will cover three downtown blocks and encompass six buildings.
It sounds pretty impressive, as laid out by former president of Downtown Greensboro Inc., Ray Gibbs, who is now acting as consultant for the project.
A 20-story, four-star hotel. A shopping pavillion. An entertainment complex with movie theaters, a roller rink, pool tables and “cosmic” bowling. Restaurants. Parking.
But details concerning the developer of this project are scarce, though Greensboro businessman Isaac Cain has recently been revealed as the go-to guy behind the project.
Little has been written about Cain – a Google search of his name reveals nothing save for this current project – though in the coming weeks and months his profile is sure to rise.
Still, the internet is atwitter – a forum dedicated to the Greensboro Triumph Center on UrbanPlanet.org generated 28 pages of speculation and argumentation, and most scribes from Greensboro’s notorious blogging corps have weighed in.
But the most important question remains, one of the fundaments of business transactions: Who is getting what out of this?
Professor Hill, remember, sold uniforms, instruments, and music lessons – things no good marching band can do without.
The city of Greensboro stands to gain much if a giant entertainment complex materializes in a corner of the downtown district – construction jobs and subcontracts, enough banking and legal activity to generate a mountain of paperwork (and subsequent billable hours), urban beautification, a dynamic facility that will draw crowds to our downtown streets.
But what, exactly, does our mysterious developer get out of all this? Cheap land? Downtown real estate has been rising steadily for years. Access to a thriving tourist industry? Nope. A return on investment by tapping into a geographic area that’s about to experience a boom? Perhaps… but Greensboro’s population has grown by less than 1 percent annually since 2001; we have a lower median income and a higher violent crime rate than state averages; our unemployment rate stands at 5.3 percent; and a flurry of activity in the residential real estate market has left us with an occupancy rate right around 90 percent, which means different things to different people. Civic pride? Possibly, but Cain is for now playing his cards close to the vest.
And another big question: Do we need, or want, something like this in our city?
River City, as it turned out, did get their marching band, amid much hoopla and throwing of hats in the air. And it’s possible that the Greensboro Triumph Center will act as a coagulating force to our city if and when it goes up.
But until more of our questions are answered, count us as skeptical.
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