Widening project sends High Point Road business owners scrambling

by Jordan Green

Business owners on High Point Road between Greensboro and Jamestown have long known of plans to widen and realign the thoroughfare. What they didn’t know is how quickly the state of North Carolina would allocate the money and get the project underway.

Tony Wilkins, better known as a mover within the Guilford County Republican Party, has been in the furniture sales business for 28 years. Last year, he relocated his Furniture Connection store on High Point Road near the Adams Farm Shopping Center on the southwest fringe of Greensboro.

“When we decided to open here in September, the project had been delayed,” Wilkins said. “Because of the economy we were told that it would probably be two or three years before the project was proceeded with. We got a call from the state, and they wanted to meet with us in the afternoon. They informed us that money had been allocated for the project. There would be 30 days for an appraisal. There would be 30 days for them to make an offer. Once an offer was made, we would get a 90 days to vacate. My question was: ‘What happens if there’s negotiations for a year?’ They said, ‘That won’t happen; they will condemn the building by then.’” The project is creating disruption for Wilkins and other business owners, but he understands the public interest served by the road improvements.

“People tend to think I should be real bitter about it,” Wilkins said. “I’m not bitter. I’m just disappointed because our sales have continued to increase. The front of my business nearly touches High Point Road. The amount of traffic that comes by here has really surprised me. I would see how this project is needed. Other business owners may disagree. They may have more financial investment there than I do.”

Wilkins said a number of other businesses, including Coffee and Roses and Rite Aid, are also being dislocated.

The section of High Point Road slated for imminent improvement runs from Hilltop Road in Greensboro to Vickrey Chapel Road in the Jamestown area. The NC Department of Transportation plans to widen High Point Road to six lanes with a raised median and some kind of shoulder, whether it be curb and gutter, paved or grass, District 7 construction engineer Patty Eason said. In addition to the widening, the most significant change will be a realignment to reroute the thoroughfare behind the old Jefferson-Pilot property and add an interchange with the Urban Loop.

Eason said that the state is likely to award the contract in August 2012, and construction would begin within 30 days.

Wilkins said he expects to relocate to Hunt Village shopping center, also along the High Point Road corridor slated for improvement but nearer to Greensboro. The rent structure is comparable to his current arrangement, and Wilkins believes Furniture Connection will be able to make the move with minimal losses. He said the state has offered some financial assistance to smooth the transition.

“It would require sufficient advertising to let people know where I will be moving to,” he said. “Some of the assistance from the state helps with upgrading a building, if needed, and upgrading signage, if needed.”

ABOVE: Business owner Tony Wilkins needs new digs. BELOW: Improvements to High Point Road include a route alteration near the old Jefferson- Pilot property and an interchange at the Urban Loop. (courtesy images)