Your View: Guest Column - Uptowne High Point is not selfish

Jun. 11, 2014 @ 07:58 PM

BY ELIJAH LOVEJOY

In the current debate over High Point revitalization, many accuse Uptowne High Point of being selfish and arrogant. Critics argue, “My section of town has falling property values and needs revitalization too. Why should Uptowne get the initial revitalization focus?”  The critics are mistaken.  Uptowne is not selfish.  Here is why:
1.  The downtown Market area has seen millions spent in revitalization investments ($11.3 Mendenhall Station, $10 million for buried power lines and approximately $6 million for depot restoration), but remains largely a “ghost town.” Downtown property owners don’t want their rental options limited with a Market Overlay District.  We need a “community living room” outside downtown that serves the local public, Market visitors and HPU students.
2. High Point’s unrevitalized urban core is costing everyone money. We pay incentives to bring companies to High Point.  Many executives relocate their business here, then live and spend outside High Point partly because they don’t like our empty and decaying urban core.  This represents lost property and sales tax revenue.  Essentially part of our business incentive dollars help boost the tax base of other cities.
3. Between 2010 and 2013, High Point property values declined $432 million — yes, $432 million. This means lost city revenue and higher property tax rates for everyone.  Greensboro, in contrast, focused on revitalization.  Their downtown property values alone grew $122 million after the 2012 revaluation, and benefited the entire city with lower taxes.
4. Raleigh’s downtown revitalization area is 1.18 square miles, Durham’s is 0.75 and Greenville, S.C.’s is 1.75.  High Point has an 11 square mile revitalization area, almost 10 times larger than Raleigh’s. This makes urban revitalization difficult, ineffective and unaffordable.  Focusing on revitalizing Uptowne as High Point’s town center is not selfish any more than revitalizing downtown Greensboro or Winston was selfish.
5. Without incentives, dozens of businesses have relocated to Uptowne. Entrepreneurs are voting with their feet, demonstrating a willingness to invest private dollars in Uptowne. A relocation of High Point’s downtown to Uptowne has the greatest chance of revitalization success and catalyzing more private investment.
6. Uptowne, particularly near the Library, is on the Main Street corridor, psychologically available to all citizens and has supporting side-road infrastructure.  The Library block is mostly city owned, reducing conflicts of interest and city tax dollars necessary for a transformational project.
7.  If the city spent $5 million on revitalization, which investment has the greatest chance of spurring private development and creating a “community living room” for the public to enjoy?  A.) A park bench and side walk in all 8 districts of the 11-square-mile core city area.  B.) More money invested downtown. C.) A nice park in an empty field or next to an abandoned building on South Main. D.) A new town center “community living room” in the Uptowne area.
Many places need revitalization. Esther Asprogiannis has helpfully suggested a prioritized list of targeted core city revitalization projects.  We must start somewhere that can achieve maximum impact at lowest taxpayer cost and reverse High Point’s financial, cultural and psychological decline. Uptowne has the best chance of being that place for the whole city.

Elijah Lovejoy is as former High Point City Council candidate who owns property in High Point and lives in Greensboro.