Optimism high as Ignite High Point kicks off
A who’s who of High Point gathered Wednesday to hear Andres Duany share his initial impressions of what it will take to revitalize the city.
The architect and father of the planning philosophy known as New Urbanism, Duany spoke on the first day of the Ignite High Point initiative. In the coming days, a series of public workshops called charrettes will be held to gather information that will be used to formulate a master plan that will lay out the potential future growth of Uptowne, the downtown High Point Market district and the High Point University area.
The goal of the plan will be to foster “a new, walkable urban core.”
Duany spoke at the Hayworth Fine Arts Center on the campus of High Point University. He praised the city’s ability to feed and house 70,000 to 80,000 High Point Market visitors twice a year as an impressive feat that could be built upon for success in other areas.
On the positive and negative aspects of the High Point Market:
“This is one of the most peculiar places I’ve seen. This is your biggest problem and your biggest asset. This is what happens twice a year. There is something called a spike. A spike is not a good thing. Retailers don’t like spikes. They don’t like any kind of spikes. There are some retailers — and I think there are quite a few here in High Point — who really make the bulk of their profits in a two- to four-week period. It’s virtually impossible to live off that. All that is good for is fame and tax base. We need to do something else.”
On High Point University:
“This university raises everyone’s spirits. People cling to this place with great hope. One of the things we want to do is get the lesson of High Point — the fact that things can be done in the teeth of difficulty, and very quickly. I made a mistake once in saying that the problem with the students in High Point is that they are so comfortable here within their campus that they never come downtown. The problem is, there is nothing for them to do downtown.”
On how the master plan is geared toward the “millennials,” who are now in their 20s and will be 35 to 40 by the time the plan is hopefully making an impact:
“You’ve got 225,000 students within an hour’s drive. Those are the ones we need to bring here, and the way we’re going to do this is make this a much cooler place on their terms.”
On regulatory barriers to revitalization:
“At the moment, you have exceedingly high levels of bureaucracy that only works when profit is exceedingly high.”
On challenges of making North Main Street pedestrian-friendly:
“You have an incredibly bad pedestrian experience here. The good news is, if you can manage two-and-a-half blocks of decent continuous road frontage, you become a good place. That’s what young people want, retailers want. Our engineers are going to work on road dieting to slow traffic down. If you don’t do that, you can forget about it. If you don’t, I don’t care how many wires you bury.”