“Pit” plan progressing

Apr. 05, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

Plans for one of the top priorities of High Point revitalization advocates are garnering city support.
City leaders haven’t given final approval for development of a downtown parking lot and the surrounding area across from the High Point Depot known as “the pit” into a public gathering spot.
But the City Council on Wednesday gave the OK for staff to move forward with negotiations with a potential user looking to lease the property, most of which is owned by the city.
Ryan Saunders is heading up efforts to develop the site, which was identified in the Ignite High Point master plan as a location that could “engage the creative spirit” of the younger generation and draw more foot traffic downtown.
Saunders wants to use the site to host concerts, games, artistic endeavors and other events. Assistant City Manager Randy McCaslin said several issues still need to be worked out to enable Saunders to lease the site.
These include reaching an agreement with the owners of surrounding properties ensuring that they will continue to have access to the site.
“What Ryan is looking at doing is a low-dollar-type project. We’re not going in and addressing the structural issues and hazardous areas. We’re fencing them off and keeping patrons away from them,” McCaslin said.
Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall said she would like to know what it will cost the city to make basic improvements to the site.
“It is basically city property that looks horrible in the middle of the furniture district, right off the train station,” Mendenhall said. “I think we have some responsibility — for the minimum amount of money for which it can be done — to clean it up and provide more lighting to what is a terrible looking thing in the middle of our city.”
Council members said they wanted to hear cost estimates before addressing the issue of what kind of permitting and inspection requirements to which the site might be subjected.
Saunders wants to use mobile green spaces made of synthetic grass set on galvanized steel frames that can be moved around the pit area, which had been largely forgotten until urban architect Andres Duany took note of it last year while preparing the master plan.
“It does need to be made safe,” said Councilman Jay Wagner. “We’re talking about a place that wasn’t noticed for 30 years, until last May.”