Consultant recommends against street diet
A consultant hired by a group of High Point business and tourism leaders to study how to increase year-round consumer traffic in and around the core city has completed his study.
Tony Peterman of Strategic Advisory Group on Wednesday presented his findings to the High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose board, along with that of the High Point Partners, hired him last year.
Peterman’s findings contrast in at least one big way with another revitalization study recently undertaken on the city’s behalf — the Ignite High Point master plan.
That study, by architectural firm Duany Plater-Zyberk, recommends “dieting” part of N. Main Street with the city taking the lead in reducing it from four to two lanes of traffic. The city recently funded a study of the idea.
Peterman recommends an alternative to this he dubbed “Foster Main Street,” in which the city would not pursue the street diet but instead buy key properties in the area and offer incentives for targeted businesses to locate there.
If street dieting fails, it would serve as a “daily physical reminder” of the money wasted on the venture, he said. The city should instead use the profits from any land sales to landscape, or eventually, diet the street, he said.
Peterman also looked at whether the city needs a large space for meetings, trade shows and conventions as a way to bring in more people and provide an economic boost outside of the High Point Market twice a year.
Instead of this, he recommends a strategy in which the city would purchase key locations in the core city with the aim of luring more retail shops, restaurants and other types of businesses.
“Whatever High Point chooses to do is going to take bold action,” Peterman said. “There’s always going to be critics.”
The cost of the study was $55,000, of which the CVB paid $40,000, with the rest covered by the partners.
Instead of a convention center, Peterman explored the feasibility of an “expo center” at Oak Hollow Mall, about two-thirds of which is owned by High Point University.
This would be geared more toward local events than a convention center, he said.
“It’s a real enigma trying to figure out how to tweak the (furniture) market in order to leverage it for a larger community event,” Peterman said. “We thought we could figure it out, but we didn’t.”
The city instead could focus on acquiring properties like the block west of Main Street just south of High Avenue and the former Showplace West building, which previously was the headquarters for Culp Inc. and GE Capital.
“What the parcels would be used for is part of that next determination phase,” Peterman said. “It would be used for people to go and meet and see and do and create. Any retail or commercial enterprise geared toward those kind of things would be appropriate for that.”