City Project shops for ideas

Dec. 10, 2012 @ 12:43 PM

City revitalization efforts are taking cues from another North Carolina city.
Last week, members of The City Project board took a trip to Durham to get a feel for how revitalization can change a town. The City Project board also has visited Salisbury and Greenville, S.C.
Downtown Durham began a planning process for revitalization in the late 1990s, according to board member Richard Wood. Wood said that although Durham has done some great things for that city, High Point doesn’t strive to be like Durham or any other city.
“Downtown Durham was full of old dead bodies of tobacco buildings,” Wood said. “Great bones, great structures but no usage. They developed a plan that cost them about $200,000, most raised locally, and in (1999) the plan was done.”
Wood said Durham has had private investments of $1 billion in its downtown plan. The city and county have invested about $300 million. Wood said Durham County is mostly occupied by the city of Durham. High Point is a different beast.
“We are the biggest city in the state that isn’t a county seat,” he said. “There are a lot of things we can’t do and won’t be able to do, but there are a lot of things that we can.”
Wood said Durham has different problems and goals than High Point. Durham has not developed much retail in its downtown under the notion that bringing lots of office space to downtown Durham with the expectation that dwelling and retail would follow.
“Typically what happens first is offices, and that creates a market for residential because people tend to want to live where they work, and then third in line is retail, because when you have the office and the residential, it creates the market for retail,” said board member Jay Wagner.
In other business, the board also discussed the success of the Uptowne High Point Holiday Stroll: A Dickens Christmas and discussed the Hometown Revival exhibit that will be on display at Theater Art Galleries through the new year.