Our View: Revitalization ideas for city flow

May. 12, 2013 @ 12:47 AM

Some 100 years ago, trolley cars made their way through several of High Point’s primary streets. Should they return, this time connecting High Point University, Uptowne and the city’s downtown market district?
Should Oak Hollow Mall be converted into a business incubator for various kinds of entrepreneurs to help them develop thriving businesses? What about creating a business, residential and recreational district with “walkability” in and around the N. Main Street area known as Uptowne? Or maybe establishing a mile-long trail in the downtown market area that connects numerous “pop-up retail” businesses to attract visitors from 100 miles away?
Those are just a few of the ideas that have been suggested in the past several days during a series of brainstorming workshops called charrettes that are being held as part of the Ignite High Point campaign, which is being led by renowned urban planner Andres Duany.
Are these and the many other ideas that have been suggested feasible? Maybe. Are they practical? Maybe. Are they costly? Maybe. Are they worth exploring? Certainly.
The effort, which kicked off Wednesday, is the brainchild of The City Project and is made possible by 100 investors. The series of charrettes concludes Wednesday.
The purpose of this 8-day exercise is to get High Pointers to open up, to toss all kinds of ideas around for developing, redeveloping or revitalizing areas of the city being considered in this particular study. And then, Duany and his team of designers, architects and planners will produce recommendations for action.
While attending sessions Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it became clear that an important part in the success of Ignite High Point will be overcoming regulations that stymie innovation in thinking and design and entrepreneurship. It also became abundantly clear that Duany has a strong aversion to over-regulation in urban areas that impedes redevelopment and revitalization.
“The only thing to prevent this is government,” Duany said Friday during a charrette titled “Tactical Urbanism: Supporting a City Center.”
Many of the ideas we’ve heard so far, from the public and from Duany, would change the looks of High Point in some highly visible ways. But that’s what such an effort is all about. Fortunately for the city, as Duany has pointed out, Ignite High Point is not a response to an emergency case of city decay and decline. It’s an effort to make the city better, to achieve its potential in areas other than just being the Home Furnishings Capital of the World.
Leaders, both civic and elected, will have time to digest findings of this work and figure out how best to implement recommendations. But without a doubt, action should occur in response to this examination. Sure, High Point isn’t an emergency case, but revitalization of its urban center must begin, or someday, it will be.