Surprise Us, High Point
Members of High Point City Council will receive a briefing on a new master plan for revitalizing North Main Street, along with downtown and areas near High Point University and Oak Hollow Mall, on Thursday.
A betting person could safely wager that council members and other decision-makers will not be falling over themselves to implement the plan, which was developed by Miami urban planner Andres Duany. The plan acknowledges up front that successful implementation of the plan will rely on leadership from a number of key leaders, including City Manager Strib Boynton and High Point University President Nido Qubein.
You can hear Duany daring them in a section of the report headed “By and for Young People”:
“If this plan and its way of implementation are not recognizable to you, it is because we are designing with young people and for young people. This plan is all about making High Point commercially viable and socially alive in a different way than you have done in the past.”
Duany and company suggest that creating a quality main-street experience will not be enough to catalyze revitalization in High Point. The master plan notes that Greensboro and Winston-Salem both have “impressively revitalized downtowns,” both of which “are closer to the High Point suburbanites who have grown accustomed to using them.”
THE PLAN RELIES ON YOUNG, CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE UNDEREMPLOYED.
The consultants identify two sources of “renovation and incubation” that could lift High Point out of its slump, both having to do with higher education: “the spectacular rise of High Point University” and the fact that the city is at the center of a large population of college students graduating at a rate of 50,000 per year.
Councilwoman Becky Smothers threw a wet blanket on the whole notion in comments to YES! Weekly earlier this week.
“I think that High Point wants to be a welcoming community to all people, not just aimed at one specific population,” she said.
The plan relies on two projects to draw young, creative entrepreneurs who are underemployed and undercapitalized to High Point, including an incubator at the vacant Oak Hollow Mall. The cooperation of High Point University, which owns the mall, is required for an incubator to take off at the site. So far, Qubein has been noncommittal.
The master plan also proposes a site known as the Pit as “a venue for parties,” elaborating that “the improvised nature of this gathering spot, on seemingly forgotten land amidst parking structures, is so unlikely that it immediately establishes this place as cool — in a way that Greensboro and Winston-Salem are not.”
The consultants rate the project as having “higher” urgency, importance and cost-effectiveness for the city, but Smothers said she isn’t convinced that the city can afford it.
“The only significant amount of money we would have is bond money, and I can’t support putting up a bond that would take 20 years to pay back,” she said. “In 20 years, who knows what will be cool?” !
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