Consultant: Do the road diet

May. 20, 2014 @ 10:13 AM

Add another voice to those in support of pursuing the controversial road diet proposal through Uptowne High Point.
Joe Minicozzi of the Asheville consulting firm Urban3 told a lunchtime audience at the String and Splinter Club Monday that reducing vehicle traffic along N. Main Street from four to two lanes is the first step needed to revitalize the area and reverse declining property values.
The road diet could spur enough commercial and residential growth in and around Uptowne eventually to add $2.3 million to the city’s tax base, he argued.
“The question is, will this road diet help our community? The short answer is yes. The bigger answer is, it’s going to help by $2.3 million,” said Minicozzi. “You seriously need to do something. You all know your real estate is trending south.”
The City Project hired Minicozzi to study what the economic impact would be for Uptowne if the area is built out as proposed in the Ignite High Point master plan.
The Ignite plan, which strongly recommends the Uptowne road diet, shows what type of development could go on each parcel along N. Main Street, be it a retail storefront or something that might combine commercial and residential uses.
Minicozzi gathered data about current real estate and tax values of Triad properties to project what would happen to property values in Uptowne if it develops in the ways suggested in the plan.
He said home values in High Point are below those of many of its peer cities.
“Why? These communities are adopting different principles of land development,” he said. “This is serious stuff to pay attention to. These are numbers that should shock you.”
Minicozzi said thousands of people live and work within a few minutes’ walk of Uptowne, and they “can be a captured market. The demand is there. The opportunity is there. The numbers are there.”
He said “streetscapes” in Asheville — public investments to improve the appearance of streets and make them more pedestrian-friendly — helped revitalize that city’s downtown. Doing this in High Point is one way to entice property owners and developers to make investments in Uptowne.
He said $26 million of public investment was made in Asheville’s downtown, which has yielded $400 million in tax base growth.
The road diet proposal has critics, including some City Council members, who question whether it’s worth the city investment and raise concerns about what impact it might have on traffic patterns.
Another consultant, this one hired by the city, is studying the traffic issues.
“When people try to shoot the plan down, are they bringing the data?” Minicozzi said. “Challenge your neighbors to bring data to the table.”