Southwest group has busy 2013
Little by little.
That’s how a group of grass-roots volunteers working to revitalize southwest High Point assesses its progress during 2013.
The Southwest Renewal Foundation, a nonprofit, can point to some tangible accomplishments in the 2-square-mile area between English Road, S. Main Street and W. Market Center Drive.
Much of its work — applying for grants, arranging alliances between business owners — is behind the scenes and doesn’t lend itself to splashy headlines.
But foundation co-chair Dorothy Darr said she hopes it eventually will bear fruit in ways that bring back the district that was once the city’s economic engine of furniture and textile mills.
Darr and others with the foundation are working to draw new businesses and create a better quality of life for residents in the area.
“It is a lot of small steps that have to be done incrementally. You look back and it doesn’t seem like much, and we still have a lot of things on our to-do list, but at least we’ve started,” Darr said.
The foundation used a grant from the city to enlist a herd of goats to clear kudzu from about 17 acres behind Highland Mill over the summer. The group’s goal is to eradicate about 50 acres of the invasive plants along Richland Creek, where the foundation wants to build a greenway.
They didn’t use all of the $28,000 the city allocated for kudzu removal, Darr said. They may use the remaining funds to bring in the animals again and eventually plant something in its place.
“The more they can graze, the weaker the plant becomes. Kudzu’s a bear. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years to keep after it,” Darr said.
The group has identified a firm it would like to hire to perform a greenway feasibility study for about $33,000.
“That is our No. 1 priority for 2014,” Darr said.
Also in 2013, the foundation successfully lobbied the city to allow bicycle lanes to be added to a portion of W. Green Drive that was repaved.
Darr said the foundation hopes to expand on this next year. In addition, there are $200,000 in state funds that the city has received to build sidewalks near the two elementary schools in the district — Fairview and Oak Hill.
The group this year also launched a new website, www.highpointsouthwest.org.
Another success story from 2013 was a holiday sales event spotlighting arts, furniture and antiques dealers in the district, Darr said. The foundation rented a trolley to shuttle people around to participating stores.
The foundation made strides on the historic preservation front this year as well, she added.
An application was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places for Highland Mill, a former cotton mill that shut down about 20 years ago.
The goal is to have the mill complex and about 170 of the former mill houses and other surrounding properties listed on the register, Darr said.
It would provide for the possibility of state and federal tax credits for redevelopment projects in the village, among other benefits, she said.
“It documents the history of the mill village and brings attention to the village as something that’s special,” she said.