Lewis Street building vandalized for third time in Downtown Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

Graffiti and multiple smashed windows are proof that someone is targeting a recently remodeled building at the intersection of Lewis and Elm streets in Downtown Greensboro, according to the building’s owner.

Greensboro police have been called three times to Eric Robert’s remodeled building at 603 S. Elm St. since early July. Robert had finished his remodeling work in the back half of the building, along Lewis Street, and rented it to a tenant from Charlotte with plans to open a bar just days before the vandalism began.

It was July 7 when the vandalism began. Robert received a phone call from Greensboro police early the next morning advising that his large smoked-glass windows along the Lewis Street side had been damaged. The windows are oversized, 8×8 foot, double-pane tempered glass that cost about $1,500 each. The four windows in what was formerly an aged brick wall gave the streetscape a much needed facelift.

Last weekend, someone targeted the door along Lewis Street, smashing the upper windowpane with what appeared to be a BB gun that left a shattered pattern emanating from a circular point in the glass.

Undeterred, Robert installed a video camera along the street. The camera captured footage of a man violently smashing multiple windows on Robert’s property about 10:30 p.m. Friday night.

The video shows a man in a white t-shirt, carrying a backpack, wielding a large stick-like object to repeatedly attack the windows. The man appears to walk away after glass falls from one window, only to return again and land extra blows against the tempered window glass.

Robert was hesitant to talk about the specific motives for the attack, preferring to let police handle the investigation. He did say he felt targeted by the attack, but pointed out that several other instances of vandalism have occurred along that block of Elm Street.

“When you look at this video, either he is sick or psycho,” Robert said. “The vengefulness and determination with which he is attacking my windows is almost like someone paid him to do his. There is a definite determination to inflict destruction.”

Robert said watching the video made him upset.

“It is simply not cool and it is collectively against what we are trying to do in Downtown Greensboro,” Robert said. “People should be concerned that it is happening at all. After me it is going to be someone else inevitably.”

Commenters on Robert’s Facebook post of the video mentioned several other acts of vandalism on that block of Elm Street. One downtown resident noted a lack of response from elected officials and non-profit boosters of the Downtown scene.

“I don’t know if they are homeless or not homeless, but you have a lot of people around causing trouble,” Robert said. “I’ve owned property Downtown since 2004, so I’ve seen it.”

Robert said GPD Chief Wayne Scott was very responsive to messages left over the weekend, but he’s heard little from city council members he has reached out to.

Robert said it was disappointing for his tenants from Charlotte to have to experience this so soon after signing a lease and during their process of upfitting the space for business.

“This is their introduction to Greensboro, not once but three times,” Robert said. “Four if you count the graffiti.”His plan for countermeasure is to put in more cameras and to install roll-up metal curtains.

“By the time we are done it is going to look like Beirut,” Robert said. “I don’t’ think that is what any of us intend for downtown.”

His other choice would be to board up the windows permanently.

“Today I boarded up my building again,” he said. “So it is going to start a serious conversation about that good repair ordinance. What do I do in this case? Are they going to fine me for boarding up my windows to protect against vandalism that they can’t protect me from?”