Duany outlines vision for revitalization
“We’ve been making our own dream. Tonight, we’re going to see that dream in pictures and words.”
That was how Aaron Clinard, chairman of The City Project, led off the wrap-up session for Ignite High Point with urban architect Andres Duany Wednesday night.
Duany reported his findings from a week’s worth of public brainstorming sessions known as charrettes on how to revitalize Uptowne, the furniture market district and the High Point University area.
Duany will deliver a draft master plan this summer with a final report due by September. He shared some of his proposals at High Point University’s Hayworth Fine Arts Center.
Duany showed a artist’s rendering of what he called an ideal look for North Main Street between Farriss and Montlieu avenues, with only one lane of traffic in each direction and a rumble strip in the middle that could be converted to a turn lane. The drawing showed trees planted along the sidewalks and cars parked on the street.
“This is what an American street is supposed to look like,” he said. “It’s not the number of cars that’s hostile; it’s the speed. It’s alright to slow them up. They’re borrowing your main street and the people who live on them own the main street.”
Several potential uses for shipping containers, also known as sea-cans, were proposed.
“Many of our ideas have to do with shipping containers instead of buildings. Containers are affordable,” he said.
He suggested allowing the containers to be arranged along the edge of parking lots behind a stretch of North Main Street downtown behind Wells Fargo bank. They could house cafes in this space, for example.
Across Main Street, he said sea-cans could be stacked up in a series of courtyards in the parking lot next to the vacant former North State Communications customer service building, which he said would be ideal for a children’s museum.
The courtyard of sea-cans could have solar panels on top, slides for kids and places for their parents to congregate.
“And what does it cost? $40,000 in containers, Very little money, but huge effect. That’s how you incubate things,” he said.
A civic building with space for 1,500 to 2,000 people to host conventions and athletic events is something Duany said the public wants.
He showed a drawing that would locate a building on a parking lot across South Hamilton Street from Showplace. The building would be constructed partially out of sea-cans stacked on top of a slab. The building could accommodate a basketball court with retractable seating.
“From the outside, it looks better than most civic buildings these days at a fraction of the cost. Why waste the money?” he said.
Light red tape
“This building is the coolest in town,” Duany said, showing a picture of the former GE Capital/Culp building on North Main Street. “This is one of the greatest loft buildings in the world.”
The building has 13-foot ceilings that would make it ideal for converting into apartments, but has no sprinkler system, as required by building code.
An outdoor amphitheater could complement the interior upgrades to the building.
“It’s the most complete monoculture I’ve ever seen. IMC serves you well because of taxes, but when it’s gone, downtown hibernates,” he said. “The only way commerce is going to survive is when people live, work and shop downtown. There is no other way. We need to get this a downtown mixed use.”
Oak Hollow Mall, owned by High Point University, could be used for a business incubator called “Inc. pad.”
“You create a camp for young architectural students of the many colleges here who graduate with lots of skills and can’t find jobs. Get them with young entrepreneurs and have them build houses on the parking lot,” he said. “I heard you are full of craftsmanship and students who want to make things. Catch them after they graduate and incubate a whole youth culture.”
Duany showed the audience an draft development ordinance one-eighth of an inch thick he said could be adopted to help foster some of his ideas.
“A conventional inspector such as is curently constituted in High Point would find 20 reasons not to allow this. This is possible. You just have to allow it to happen.”