Mayor Vaughan Talks Future of Downtown Greensboro

10:09 AM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- New Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughan said her comprehensive vision for improving downtown--a pivotal piece of her campaign platform--include following through with some of the "transformative projects" that are in the works.

 
Those projects include downtown additions and "beautification" on Elm Street. Vaughan said this vision entails new hotels, as well as the construction of the Greensboro Performing Arts Center (GPAC) and the Downtown University Campus. Vaughan said with the dedication of the newly-reconstituted Downtown Greensboro, Incorporated (DGI) and the City Council, she believes the projects can stay on track and meet their deadlines.

"Right now we're juggling an awful lot of balls, and we definitely want to make sure that we stick to a deadline and that we follow through with these projects one way or another within the next couple of months. You have a Council who is extremely focused on moving forward," she said.

Vaughan said she currently is not aware of any businesses planning to leave downtown Greensboro, and thus she said she is hopeful some minor repairs can attract new businesses to the area. She said Elm Street, with its rich history and new up-for-lease real estate, continues to be a desired location for businesses coming to downtown Greensboro.

"You know Elm Street, there was a Cooper Carry study that was done a few years ago, and DGI is looking at it, the city is looking at it, and we're certainly going to be doing some beautification to make downtown more walk-able, more attractive, and I think that will be important to attracting other businesses, as well. You know we have had a few openings. We've had a first homegrown bookstore just open up two weeks ago on Elm Street, and that's pretty exciting," she said.

Other major projects for downtown Greensboro include the Greensboro Performing Arts Center (GPAC), which the City Council approved in August. The project is estimated to cost $30 million, plus an additional $21 million in interest. Vaughan said she is hopeful about the funding progress thus far. The location determined for GPAC is the block of land bordered by Lindsay Street, Summit Avenue and Elm Street, including the plot where the currently vacant Greensboro Inn is located.

"The private sector has stepped up with $35.4 million, which is absolutely wonderful," Vaughan said. "The city has pledged an additional $30 million. The construction time right now I'm unsure of. We're working on a governance agreement, and once that is finalized, then we'll move forward with construction contracts."

Vaughan confirmed another major prospective project, the Downtown University Campus, is still in its planning stages. Vaughan was at an announcement last year when she and community leaders announced the site location--the empty lot at South Elm and Lee Streets. The campus will serve as a shared facility for nursing students of all seven Greensboro colleges and universities. Vaughan said she does not yet have a tentative start date for construction. City leaders have said their goal is for the first building to be open by 2016. The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $40 million.

"The City Council and the county commissioners will have to start meeting on the Downtown University Campus because they are going to be looking for some financial support for both the city and the county," she said.

She added, "I think this is one of the most exciting projects that we have going on downtown, and the biggest thing will be the legislature will have to agree that NC A&T and UNCG can commit to a long-term lease, and once that happens, I think you'll see construction start."

Vaughan acknowledged potential parking concerns that could arise as pending new businesses and visitors begin to come downtown. She said if it is deemed necessary, she will consider finding means of adding new parking to accommodate the work force. Vaughan said aside from parking logistics, adding hotels downtown is a critical component in the maximizing of the new sites. She acknowledged the major interior renovations already completed by the downtown Marriott.

"I think they (the Marriott) invested about $3.4 million and finished this renovation in September, and it's got a beautiful lobby and the ballroom upstairs, and we haven't really had a vibrant hotel downtown. I think the Marriott is stepping up a little bit. We have some boutique hotels downtown, such as the Biltmore, which is a great place to stay," she said.

Vaughan said three potential new hotels could soon come downtown--a Wyndham hotel, a hotel built by Roy Carroll and a hotel to accommodate Downtown University Campus.

Aside from projects, Vaughan said people who live in Greensboro need to be aware of pending rate increases. She said there is a water and sewer increase programmed into the next budget, which the City Council has not planned to discuss in detail until later this month.

WFMY News 2