TEN BEST THINGS DOWNTOWN GREENSBORO NEEDS
Breakfast delivery place
I am convinced this idea could make a killing. People want to eat breakfast in bed, or have coffee and a biscuit delivered to their office. It could be a consortium of businesses cooperating on a delivery service (allowing someone to order chicken and waffles from Dame’s or Europa’s Sunday eggs benedict) or a new place with a variety of options. A central location would help the food stay hot.
A burrito joint
Greensboro has plenty of incredible Mexican food, but downtown needs a place that specializes in burritos. Think about the assembly line model at a chain like Chipotle, but make it a local joint like Mamacita’s in Asheville, Carrburritos or Cosmic Cantina. This is so obvious we shouldn’t have to say it, but here we are, begging you to make it happen. Related: Open a creperie.
We say it around the office all the time — if Center Pointe was split into smaller, more reasonably priced apartments, the building would be full. Even cheaper apartments like the Greenway at Fisher Park cost significantly more than places a few blocks away. If we want to grow downtown by increasing the housing stock, there need to be affordable options.
Something the size of Chapel Hill’s Local 506 would thrive here. The Flying Anvil made a few mistakes, but one of the biggest was taking on such a gigantic downtown space, former owners said. A smaller space that does not double as a café or a bar throughout the week that could attract strong local and touring acts that could pack a small space would be an asset to the Gate City. Cozier than the Blind Tiger, affordable ticket prices, no cover bands and downtown please.
Smart mixed use
One landlord (not Roy Carroll) emailed us to say that a nightclub moved into the first floor of a building where he rents apartments upstairs and that the residents are bothered by the bass and loud music. No kidding. Clubs can’t be run out of downtown and must be given space to exist, but a commercial space used during the day above a club that’s only open at night would do just fine. Planning, planning, planning.
The Greensboro Mural Project has already created two beautiful murals downtown (at the Edible Schoolyard and the Interactive Resource Center) but there are plenty more empty walls that would benefit from a facelift. The group’s work comes at a minimal
cost, and partnerships could help spread the idea to other surfaces. What about ugly electrical boxes? The brick wall by the civil rights museum? The list is almost endless.
Lower rent and fixed fronts
There are so many empty storefronts on Elm, but what about the old Rhinoceros Club, the underutilized building at the beginning of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive or Twiggy’s on Davie? The city is considering giving $20,000 to help fix up such storefronts, which is sorely needed, but the unreasonably high rents somehow need to be addressed too. Other cities subsidize rent in specific areas to encourage development (like cooperative artist studios) — we have the people, ideas and desire, just not the money.
Bar in the ‘South End’
Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate the idea of calling the block of South Elm above Lee Street “the South End.” My parents live in the South End — you know, the real one, in Boston — but I respect the attempt to create districts downtown. This block of South Elm would greatly benefit from a small, reasonably priced bar that could appeal to people going into nearby storefronts as disparate as Social Status, Elsewhere and Mellow Mushroom. A clean bar literally and visually, without a jukebox (preventing people from putting on obnoxious and alienating music), and without live music or karaoke night either. Keep it simple.
It’s fine for downtown to have distinct areas — museums clustered by the library, the hipper bit anchored by Elsewhere, a theater “district” — but they have to be connected somehow. I frequent Fisher’s Grille but I’m not inclined to walk from there towards Center City Park because it’s desolate. The Westerwood Tavern area is a strong “pocket” contender with the mini-bowling alley planned behind the bar because it’s a great idea and it will be connected by the downtown greenway.
The ‘cool’ factor
Ed Wolverton is on his way out as the head of Downtown Greensboro Inc. and the organization has posted the job opening online. For downtown to be cool, we need a lot of different voices contributing their ideas — not just a new DGI president — and many of them need to be young folks. I know Ham’s is native to Greensboro, but I just don’t care. Downtown needs to be unique. We like to paraphrase the prevailing wisdom on the subject best summed up by Eric Robert: “Cool sells itself.”