Just wait till next year.
Here we are, barely halfway through 2019 and everyone in Greensboro seems fixated … on 2020.
It’s hard to blame them. That’s when ...
- The new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to open in downtown Greensboro.
- The ACC men’s basketball tournament returns to where it belongs, the Greensboro Coliseum.
- NCAA tournament first and second round games also return to the coliseum.
- Another new downtown hotel, the Westin, is expected to be completed.
- The critical segment of the Urban Loop between Lawndale Drive and North Elm Street should be up and running.
- The “Project Slugger” tower at First National Bank Field is scheduled to be built and open.
- The Downtown Greenway finally closes its 4-mile loop around the center city.
- Amazon opens a “fulfillment center” in Kernersville that will employ 1,000.
- And, oh yeah, there’ll be an election, too.
As far as anyone can tell, nobody huddled in a smoke-filled room and hatched a master plot. Greg Dillon, the developer of the Westin, did specifically point to 2020 in an interview with News & Record editors in 2018. As he saw it, the ACC men’s and women’s tournaments and the NCAA regionals, in three consecutive weeks in Greensboro, were manna from heaven for hoteliers.
But most of the good things on next year’s calendar are happy coincidences.
For instance, spiraling costs and construction delays pushed a projected June 2019 opening for the Tanger Center to January 2020. And the Westin, which was previously a Wyndham, hasn’t been in the works forever. It just seems that way.
Nor have any of these milestones come without cost or controversy. With its limestone and glass façade and massive profile, the Tanger Center should be magnificent. But it still will have to dispel the lingering notion that it is a plaything for the well-off. If, as promised, it serves the entire community by interspersing local events with touring shows (as the old War Memorial Auditorium did very well) it could win over the skeptics.
The fast-evolving, 44-mile Urban Loop, meanwhile, cuts a swath that comes uncomfortably close to some people’s bedroom windows and seems merciless toward anything with branches and leaves.
Even the ACC Tournament comes with at least one undesirable side effect (Jim Boeheim).
But you can sense an excitement and momentum that the city hasn’t seen in decades.
One of the most underrated gifts to the community may be the Downtown Greenway. I know: $36 million for a 4-mile loop seems exhorbitant. But access to the greenway is free to anyone. It promotes fitness, connects neighborhoods and encourages development. And ultimately, it should link seamlessly to a network of paths that could allow you some day to walk, run or bike from downtown Greensboro to Summerfield.
To be honest, the list of things to look forward to in 2020 is justifiable cause for civic pride and optimism. If I were a city leader, I’d exploit that generous alignment of good stuff by giving the year a theme — as in “2020 Vision,” to rally this community around the power of the possibilities here: See what we can do, with planning and buy-in and commitment. See what we can do, when public and private come together. See what we can do when we resist being infected by Greensboro Disease and ask why not instead of why.
But there is a blind spot. Underpinning all of that shiny new construction is a fragile and sometimes rickety social foundation. Poverty. Violence. Housing shortages.
We have roughly six months to conceive some equally Big Ideas about, say, affordable housing.
Indeed, when you really think about it, how much sense did it make that the city bonds voters passed in 2016 earmarked only $25 million for housing. (That same bond package included $25 million ... for downtown streetscaping?)
Yes, the News & Record supported the new parking deck that will be attached to the new Westin.
And, yes, the hope is that more parking will help attract more employers and jobs to the center city
But it’s hard to see how we could muster $30 million for a parking deck and only $25 million for housing bonds.
Anyway, we have six months to come with a vision for 2020 that invests in basic needs as well as dazzling dreams.
Does anyone else see the value in that?