Negative perceptions of southwest still abound
Ugly. Isolated. Disconnected. Crime-ridden. Environmentally degraded.
Not a good area for investment. Not a good area for living. Neglected. No vitality. Poverty. Dysfunctional old factories and mills.
Those are some of the ways the Southwest Renewal Foundation has heard the area described when they’ve asked High Pointers about their perceptions of the two-square-mile area bordered by English Road, South Main Street and West Market Center Drive.
“People had pre-conceptions about the area,” said foundation co-chair Dorothy Darr. “We see it as a diamond in the rough. The whole area needs to be made more attractive.”
The southwest area has assets the group seeks to highlight: cultural diversity, three city parks and plenty of open space — “enough space for community gardens and urban orchards,” according to Darr.
The area also includes the High Point Market showroom district, the city’s mass transit facilities, the N.C. Shakespeare Festival headquarters and a growing cluster of antique and accessory shops — “fine accessories, funky antiques,” as she put it. Another bright spot is the neighborhood’s proximity to Guilford Technical Community College’s High Point campus.
“We want to make the southwest attractive. We want to landscape it — street trees, open spaces, urban orchards, community gardens, farmer’s markets, harvest festivals,” Darr said.
One idea is to convert one-way streets like West Green Drive and West Russell Avenue to two lanes. The Core City Plan, approved in 2007, made such a recommendation.
“It’s really urban planning 101,” Darr said.
Another priority is making the southwest safe and secure, although Darr says statistically speaking, it’s actually a low-crime area, contrary to its image.
Then there are the vacant industrial buildings.
A group of University of North Carolina at Greensboro students are working on a design for possible uses of the old Pickett Cotton Mill in the neighborhood. They are taking suggestions and are now working together as a group to make recommendations about what could go into that building.
“Frankly, I’ve lived here my whole life. I was a social worker down in that area many years ago, but I had not been down in there recently,” said foundation co-chair Dot Kearns. “It’s just appalling how close it is to all of our city, but how far away it is, in terms of how it looks and what’s going on and not going on down there.”