downtown

On the Second Presidential Debate of 2016 and Knowing Your Truth About Where You Live

I wanted to discuss a comment about cities that came up in the debate/ town hall last night. Note, this is not a post endorsing one or the other, although I’ll say that I’m with her. But the issue brought up is one that trips up a lot of people when it comes to talking about metropolitan policy and how black folks have been allowed to move about and take part in the environments that have been built and paved and provided for us.

First of all, the debate’s mention of urban policy and where black folks tend to live assumes a concentric city model, which looks like those diagrams of the earth where you cut it open and you have a ball in the center and rings around until you get to the crust, which is where we actually live.

This is the Burgess Concentric City Model. He applied it to Chicago first. However, maybe it should have been a rainbow instead…

The actual model goes into even more detail about human pathways, but I’m going to simplify it to three rings: the core, the suburban rings and the crust which is rural farm and natural areas. The core in this globe is the inner city. You have a business district, a city hall, maybe a county hall, the largest school, possibly the high school, a college or university and then you have either old money wealthy whites (or others of color who were able to maintain wealth since the city was first built). You also have the regional sports stadiums and other institutions marketed and intended for the entire region to use. If you have a major public transit system, all the routes lead to this area. When people come to visit your town, this is what they think of and this is where the things geared to them are located. Also, the name of this  inner core city, is often the name the entire region uses to define itself, when defining itself to people from the outside.

However, after World War II, when we had the second wave of suburban development, the department stores started to leave, along with others that catered directly to white folks, who were moving into the suburban areas. A few years later, black folks were allowed to  move out and onward, so essentially, all the people left in the “inner city” were the poor people of color, LGBTQA+ people and others deemed less American and undesirable.

This is where the bulk of the logic of that particular candidate comes from. Also, that candidate has participated in the development of cities for many years and from what I’ve been able to observe, subscribes to a inner core, then suburban rings that just have houses and a few services, and are restricted to certain types of people, then rural crust where all the farms and the things that sustain us (or the corporations that make all of our food, textiles and the like) are. This is probably the idea they have when they want to make the country great again. Basically make us all perfect round balls of metro areas. (Among other things…)

However, this was never quite the case anywhere. Why?

  1. Some cities are built along a riverfront. This automatically rules out having a round ring of neighborhoods in many cities. This is what you see in Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. The irony is that the model I just mentioned in its original form was applied to Chicago. Maybe it should have been a rainbow instead of a full circle.
  2. Some cities grew in pairs or clusters. So there are multiple metro cores and farmland that became suburban rings and then all grew together to become one mega region. New York is really this, but with water separating the various cores and rings. Also, I grew up in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. Not to be confused with the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina where I went to undergrad. Both started as triangles and are now adjacent amorphous blobs. Trying to make this a circle will only make your head hurt and you sound stupid.
  3. Economics and family structures have always determined where people choose to live. People need to be close to the things that help them survive, like jobs and food. Wealthier  people get to have more of what they like nearby. Some wealthy people wanted farmland, others wanted cultural institutions. Those others, who are at the mercy of working a job, go wherever the job is. And then those who have chosen to raise children often build and move where they feel their family will get the most of the values they want to institute into their children.
  4. Black families and sometimes Latinx and Asian families, basically anyone who was not considered white when it comes to schooling, real estate and access to public spaces and services, has always had to reckon with where slavery, then Jim (and Juan) Crow, then redlining, then urban renewal and now, mass incarceration and the aftermath of being incarcerated,  affordability or upward mobility allow them to go. For myself, my upward mobility and personal preferences dictate that I want to be near the cultural centers and also in areas where retail is clustered, which is becoming the inner cities again. But I’m a business owner just starting out, so I am on a budget. I’m also car-free, partly because of economics. Other friends, of all races and nationalities, are having children and want them to have their own safe yards, that they can manage and not have to worry about police or even neighbors shooting at their children. Because so many inner core areas closed schools or don’t provide similar public options, smaller towns in the metro regions, that are often written off as suburbs, are a more attractive option. Oh, and Target. It all really boils down to who’s good enough for Target. And who Walmart hasn’t left yet.

So what’s really going on and what should I make of this?

What I invite folks to do in the light of this particular comment and the work here, is to research the history of how your specific metro area was built, governed and developed since its inception. Each metro area, while it shares a few common elements, applies those elements differently. We need to know how our metros are made, because it’s going to take a ground-up effort to make things better. Also, you’ll sleep better knowing that living in the suburbs or inner city or on a farm or even in a shack (tiny house!) may not be a bad or shameful thing.

How Do You Start that Research?

  1. Wikipedia. Seriously, the entries on your metro area will help you find basic information and also help you find primary sources and places to go to learn why your city has its shape and how people have made it have that shape over the years.
  2. Historians and librarians in your metro area, as well as urban planners and others working in community design and governance— Basically anyone working to make sure everyone who lives in an area is accounted for and is part of the story of your city. They will help you make sure what you read is right and give you even more books to read and places to go to find information. They will also be able to point you to other people like…
  3. Long-time community residents, suggested by the professionals above. This is where you get the real stories and the more nuanced stories of why people do what they do. Or, even better, you can talk to your older family members. Record those chats, as they are history. I love what the new podcast Historically Black is doing around black oral histories. StoryCorps, and even shows like This American Life and Stuff Your Mom Never Told You are also doing a great job of uncovering local and social histories as well. (I’m going to shamelessly plug my podcast with Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman here, Third Wave Urbanism as well, where we also talk about how metro areas are really made and average people).

Above all, let those of us who are professionals stress about where people actually live. No matter where you live and what your story is, you have value. Developers and builders and city leaders, remember that the next time you decide what needs to be built or torn down in your city.

Also, please make a wise decision about voting on November 8, 2016  and during other times when elections are called in your city. Especially when other elections are called in your metro area. These folks have the direct keys to your success as a city.

I’m Kristen! Six years ago, I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com

Day Three at #CNU24: My First on the Ground–Old Friends, Good Debate, Great Places

Good morning Detroit! I’m live from my family bunker up in the Northwest side of the city to give you my take on my experience here at CNU 24. I’m already regretting missing the first two days, plus time here early, considering I have a base here. Even though I’ve been here twice, being here as an adult, fully ensconced in the planning/placemaking world, is a world of difference.

Prior to my arrival, I was marveling at how all my colleagues were absorbing the different vistas and buildings and such. I also thought all the pictures of the inside of the Opera Hall were a bit gratuitous.

They were not. Seriously, this was a building well worth preserving and saving and the perfect home to have us all gather together. (And just imagine what it looks like in color. You’ll have to come see that for yourself).

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Another honorable mention to the Gem Theater for providing us a lovely exhibit hall, registration table and plaza, the parking lot plaza in front of Opera House (Including the lovely fashion truck that provided me my second pair of sunglasses this trip) and Greektown! Lots of folks out, a security perimeter, but a vibrant environment. Plus, I love how there were so many places, like Five Guys, a bowling alley and of course lots of restaurants and bars open late.

Presentation wise, most of my time was spent yesterday at #janeday, supporting my mentor and colleague and friend Mitchell Silver in his first stage appearance at CNU! If that wasn’t enough, his New York colleagues Jannette Sadik-Khan and Jonathan Rose and Erin Barnes of ioby along with a handful of others, successfully brought the spirit of Jane up in the building and encouraged me to this (you know, write and speak) a bit more.

Speaking of speaking…

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First of all, it was a pleasure to talk gentrification and debate it publicly with my colleague Eric Kronberg of Kronberg Wall in Atlanta. They are working to clean up true blight (fallen in homes, moldy homes, old school live works that are just waiting to be your next exposed brick masterpiece) and it was great having dinner with him and preparing for our debate. Oh and we won! Thanks friendly judges ;)!

If you missed it last night, you weren’t the only one, we had a technical issue. If I understand correctly, we will have audio of the debate and once I get that link, it will be here.

Here’s a summary of what I said last night and why, based on the statement and position on the screen above on the debate and my position. While displacement is part of ONE definition of gentrification, you know how I deal with words. And unfortunately, not only have we added and maintained forced displacement in the common, crowdsourced, definition, we’ve added pretty much every social ill. Gentrification is (sometimes) forced displacement of housing. Gentrification is sometimes physical and structural improvement of housing and commercial properties. Gentrification is assuming that people of higher luxury and class are going to buy and use your stuff. But class crosses race, gender and orientation. And class can change overnight. If we are going to attack social ills, then attach social ills by name. Income inequality. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Lack of transit and active mobility options. Lack of jobs and occupations of value. Lack of food. Bad food. Insularity of ideas.

And finally, always great to talk to my good friend and colleague Chuck Marohn and thankful for how much Strong Towns has grown and become a core group of colleagues and friends well outside the CNU fold. Likewise to all my APA, NARP and other internet and urbanist friends that are converged here this weekend.

Lastly, Your hugs have been awesome and a key reminder, that we start our placemaking with connection with the soul.

And actually lastly, I’m monitoring this morning’s  Lean Urbanism talk via social, as I also really enjoying my mom (here for a visit and still holding down Greensboro) and aunt (the local Detroiter, 35 years now and counting via NC). I’ll then either be in one of the common areas or at the 11:15 session at the upstairs of the Detroit Beer Co. I have also tried to talk to as many of you as are here. The best thing to do is if you see me, walk up and say hi. Drop me your card if you have it. If I missed you, have no fear, I’m going to be doing a lot more traveling and conference attending this year, so I hope to catch you, maybe in your own place. And if you’re still here til the end of the day, there’s always the closing party!

I am @blackurbanist on Twitter and Instagram, responding most quickly on Twitter and doing most of my stream of consciousness and retweeting on Twitter on the #CNU24 hashtag.

 

 

Let People Lead in Your Cities

Let People Lead in Your Cities

What if the real reason people aren’t staying in your city is that they can’t lead?  Can’t they be themselves?  They can’t make the money that they need or even the money that they want? Won’t you listen to their complaints and make changes? Won’t you treat them like adults? Do you silence them? You doubt them? You act like you don’t care?

I feel like it’s safe enough to blatantly say that I couldn’t stay in Greensboro because I’d never get paid to be my full self. Kansas City has its problems, but allowing me to be 100% my full self isn’t the problem. And that’s saying something for a city that’s very much like the city I left behind.

Read this. If you don’t see Greensboro(or any American city) in parts of this, then I’m not sure what you are seeing. I’m also starting to see a Kansas City that doesn’t want this to be their legacy. Two authors have already written about these failures, one even projecting into a not so distant future what KC could look like if we saw major effects nationwide from climate change. Even the propagator of some of the worst segregation and elitism couldn’t beat cancer. When your time is up, your time is up.

But as recent events have shown, and reminded me, a prophet is not beloved in their homeland. Maybe in the broader nation, but not in a place where one has to pay their bills. Another cliche is that you don’t poop where you eat. Well, that causes dysentery for one and two, being critical about your home can leave you on more of a Thomas Wolfe tip than a James Baldwin tip. Even Baldwin had to get out and get his head straight so he could heal through the art.

And I feel like that’s what I’m doing. I’m working on some literal art. I’m examining my surroundings with an outsider’s eye. Last week, I brought you my fantasy fiefdom. If only you could bet on it like all those fantasy sports teams.

But to reign this back in, leaders of cities and corporate overlords– you will attract employees and entrepreneurs of a certain age and look by letting them be who they are. Especially if they are making it rain for you at the job. As long as they are doing no harm, to themselves and others, what’s it to you. Or are you too busy being harmful to yourself by drowning in greed and hoarding to see that the cities that are growing fast, are letting go of the old guard thinking, the forcing into boxes, the checking off of those boxes?

And when it’s time for you to let your life live its course, you can be proud that your legacy will live on. Because we were allowed to be full humans and we have enough life to keep the planet sustaining.

Things That Should Never Be in Driving Distance

Lincoln Park High School in Chicago/Wikimedia

I was a good North Carolinian and went to vote in my recent  election.  As I’ve written about before, the district I sit in for US House is a snake district. As in it looks like a snake. And even worse, my polling place, which should be in walking distance, isn’t. I thought the rules were that polling places needed to be in walking distance of everyone residing in their district.  I could in theory walk to my polling place. If I wanted to cross a dangerous road at rush hour. Or even if I went before work, still, heavy traffic. Lunchtime. Heavy traffic.

My old precinct when I was in undergrad was at an arts center just across the street from my dorm. The road to cross was only two lanes and it was once again RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. My precinct when I lived at mom’s was also right up the street, at my old elementary school. Where my dad used to vote was a rec center that was a little bit further from his house though. It was walkable in theory, but he still had to cross a very busy street if he were to go on foot. He still managed to vote, even when he had to walk. But seriously, should he have had to risk his life to cross a major street to vote? Unless a person can’t physically walk, we shouldn’t have to drive people to the polls. Yet, one of the things our new voting laws seem quick to create is consolidated districts and precincts.

This also had me thinking about where else no one  should ever have to drive. I came up with this list:

First, grocery. I’ve written recently about how grocery delivery can make the difference with sprawl. Also, I am aware that some neighborhoods do have curb markets. Yet, how many of these markets have the produce and other fresh goods, as well as the selection as the supermarket? However, with modern technology and more room on the roads for service vehicles, we could make supermarkets smaller, more connected and able to provide for people who are in walking distance. Not only would this include food, but there would be a showroom for other consumer products, and those could be ordered in the right size and mailed directly to one’s home. With all these deliveries, maybe the postal service could regain revenue traction or work closer with the other delivery companies for prompter delivery.

Secondly, healthcare. No one should have to pay for an ambulance ride, nor should they have to jump in the car every time they get the sniffles. Some hospitals are doing video checkups, however, I believe that we could provide in person checkups in a reasonable walking distance. In addition, these facilities would be equipped with places to do emergency surgeries or at least a helipad for airlifting to other hospitals that may have more expertise in dealing with whatever situation is going on with a person. This is the hallmark of public health and I think have both the technology and the money pouring into the healthcare industry to support it.

Third, schools. There are so many reasons people give for not being able to have schools in walking distance, except in certain neighborhoods and only for certain grade levels. With technology, we could almost go back to the one room schoolhouse. Only, this schoolhouse would have modern conveniences like science labs, band rooms, cafeterias with healthy food, maker spaces (shop and home ec classes for the 21st century), and video cameras and microphones for Skypeing other students, teachers and community members, close to home and worldwide. Instead of being a specialty school for ______ subject, all of our schools would be equipped for learning all things, even if it’s virtual or if transportation is free and provided readily to a site where the subject is taught better. Teachers who have strengths in one thing could specialize, but students wouldn’t be forced to make that decision at least until the university level. Students would only leave their neighborhoods on their own for speciality sites such as museums, extracurricular activity competitions and just to get to know people from other areas and how they live.

And the interesting part is that all these things I mentioned above could be under one roof, which would make connecting transit easier, as well as for cargo carrying vehicles. We would start with the current network of  streets and existing school buildings, then add on as needed for the health and the market needs. For those who are concerned about one healthcare provider and one grocer and the abuses that can cause, we could set a cap, maybe 10 or 12 on the number of facilities one provider can manage, with minimum standards in place to ensure that the experience only differs by the colors on the walls and not because certain people have only certain skills. In addition, health care providers and markets would be encouraged to refer people or order from other markets, if there were specialists at other facilities, even those not with that provider’s network or more grapes at another provider’s market.

With these functions under one roof, we would be closer to having solid community centers, and closer to better urbanism, even in lower-density neighborhoods. In addition, we would have the precedent set that no one should have to drive themselves or pay to transport themselves, to our basic needs. Lastly, even in a world of door-to-door Amazon delivery, people would still have a social place to go to pick up and touch objects they need.

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Placebook: Lessons from Another Angle of Downtown Greensboro

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There’s one building of the downtown Greensboro skyline that I’d never been in.  At least until yesterday.  That would be the Renaissance Plaza, the one straight ahead in the background of the above image. And on top of that, I got to go to the top floor and as you can see it was a sunny winter day. It’s one thing to have the view that I have  at home where I can see all the pinnacles of power (or tall buildings, however you want to view the Greensboro skyline), the trains and a few cars driving through Hamburger Square. In that building, I was able to see downtown from a whole different angle, and not just downtown, but the tree cover past my home and this mountain thing that appeared to be in Randolph County to the south. I also got a sense of how being in a different building, at a different angle, can truly change how one sees a city.

That change in perspective reminded me that there are so many views, perspectives and people who aren’t clued into the civic battles we face on a daily basis. Later on in the evening, I met a whole new set of neighbors at our monthly resident social. These neighbors had no clue of what was going on in the city and all the political battles we’ve been facing lately. Yet, they were happy. Well, there were other issues, but nobody at that bar was wanting for food, clothing or shelter. Many had lived in other areas and traveled the world.

What I would most want, is to be able to maintain a sense of home and place, but also recognize more of my role as a world citizen. To remember that I, like those other neighbors, have the privilege to see different perspectives, to help many people and to experience personal growth.

And with that, I would like to announce that some changes are coming to this email and this website. You’ll get a bigger announcement about them in the coming days, but for now, watch for subtle changes. What won’t change is the roundup of news and here’s your dose of news and lessons for today:

News from North Carolina

A jacked-up, abandoned house in a prominent corner of downtown Greensboro could become a new law office and the next collaboration of our local colleges and universities, this time around student art projects.

Terry Wood will be Greensboro’s interim city attorney.

Ham’s Lakeside has closed. So has Forsyth County’s first winery. So could the Forsyth County Youth Detention Center,  but the county would still have to pay some group to handle juvenile detention.

Piedmont Grown held their third annual conference, bringing together local food producers and raising awareness of local food options throughout the Triad, as well as best practices for farming in the area.

Salem Lake Greenway users now have a better, safer detour for the 18 months that the main greenway will be closed for nearby construction.

The latest addition to the District 1 Guilford County Commissioners race could shake up both the school board and the board of commissioners if she wins.

All four of the schools in North Carolina named national schools of character are Guilford County Schools.

Triangle Transit is officially in the planning stages of the Durham-Orange light rail line.

The state’s commercial hog farms are facing a disease epidemic.

Publix makes its North Carolina début today.

News and Lessons from Everywhere Else

Lots of people in a city may be stressful, but they also help with innovation and creativity and overall happiness.

The American love affair with houses and cars, in graphs.

A Florida woman is ordered to get back on the grid, after she’s found to not be off the grid as much as she thought, at least with her water system.

Neighbors in New Orléans gathered to foil a robbery of a Banksy piece created there after Hurricane Katrina.

Surprising ways retiring Congressman John Dingell was good for the environment.

How religion has urbanized a county in Upstate New York.

Hollywood’s no longer the movie-making capital of the world. How California wants to get that crown back. Meanwhile, is San Francisco losing its soul?

And finally, more college groups are taking up the mantle of protest again, due to racial, class and other injustices found on their campuses.

Placebook: Snow, Maybe?

Good Friday morning folks! Some of you are snowed in. Some of you are just cold. Count me in the cold bunch. If you want a good laugh, take a look at my account of what happens when we actually do get snow down South.

Greensboro Skyline covered in snow, January 19, 2013. Photo Credit: Kristen Jeffers

Greensboro Skyline covered in snow, January 19, 2013. Photo Credit: Kristen Jeffers

Whatever is going on outside, be safe, have fun and check out the articles below:

Harlem is on the one hand the home of the graffiti hall of fame and  the other a hotbed of gentrification.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles continues its march towards more transit, more parks and civic engagement.

Speaking of civic engagement, with the performing arts center funded, Greensboro leaders are moving towards deciding who’s going to operate it. Oh, and mark your calendars for all the known street festivals in Greensboro this year.

A sign in Miami tells pedestrians to thank drivers for not hitting them.

Terry Kerns(@terrykerns) documents significant demolitions in Atlanta, some nice, some ugly.

Jim Russell(@burghdiaspora) hasn’t slammed suburbia as much as he’s encouraged and documented the need for people to #makeyourcity and how young people are doing just that.

Kaid Benfield(@Kaid_at_NRDC)came back and elaborated on his comments on traditional downtowns, highlighting the generational gap in views on revitalization. I left a comment, stating the need for us to remain centralized, even if that means being polycentric. Also notable is the danger of having your content syndicated without its proper headline.

I don’t think manufacturing job losses are the reason Big 10 college football teams aren’t having the best seasons right now.

And finally, help this Alexandria, VA woman #FindBen, if he wants to be found. When Cragslist’s missed connections goes artisanal. http://dcist.com/2014/01/find_ben_alexandria_posters.php

That’s it for links this week. Be sure to look out for my 2014 Wishes for Good Places tomorrow just in time for brunch on the East Coast.

The Privilege of Urbanism, The Democracy of Placemaking

Privilege.

The one thing I can take from reading this article and reading my words back to myself on what it has been like living as a classical new urbanist over the past year. I cannot think of another way to illustrate how I feel vis-a-vis a young man, only two years younger than me, who’s trying to get his life back on his feet, facing challenges. It also brings me to a hard truth that my design-focused friends and followers will not want to hear.

Design, even new urbanist design, is out of reach or a major stretch for far too many people, including myself.

Prior to speaking with the reporter about the issues and frustrations I have with where I live, prior to the noise ordinance and curfew restrictions, I’d been thinking about a change in living situation.

However, I kept beating myself up with a major what-if: if I leave my apartment and go somewhere cheaper, then many of the theories I’ve put forth on this blog and in other forms would go unproven.

Isn’t that what a theory is though, an idea that hasn’t been proven? Is anything on this blog law?

No, it isn’t, and that’s actually a good thing.

One of the greatest new urbanist writers of our time is actually not quite an urbanist, in the sense that he doesn’t live in an apartment, near transit, by himself or with one or two other people. I would like to think his credibility on the subject is far superior to mine and the marketplace agrees (slowly but surely).

Yet, I still believed for the longest time, that the only way anyone would listen to my words and create a marketplace around them is if I lived the most extreme urbanism I knew how to live.

And it’s urbanism, but it’s not placemaking.

Placemaking does require an address, but it’s not necessarily an address in demand. Place can be made from old-line suburbia, where each neighbor can decide to grow a different vegetable and then teach the community how to clean and cook those vegetables, in order to eat healthier. The streets of that old-line suburbia could become woonerfs, places where cars automatically go slow and people take advantage of the sloping hills and winding curves and dead ends to get in workouts, that shed the pounds earned by sitting in cars commuting to ever further away jobs, or from sitting at home doing a job that no longer requires a specific location. They could carpool to stores. I think my reporter friend said it best in this article, “Even for a staunch new urbanist like myself, the logic is inescapable: If you want two or three bedrooms and you can afford a mortgage of about $100,000, you head for the suburbs.”

While I truly don’t want the center city to yield to the gilded class, I don’t want us to give up on making good places because we don’t live or can’t afford to do so. I also don’t want those of us with massive privilege to forget that it doesn’t take much for anyone to fall on hard times and not all dealing with hard times are lazy and uncommitted.

Whatever happens and whatever I decide to do in the coming months, my goal is to commit myself to a new theory, the democracy of placemaking. To create, to invent, to include, to incorporate, to adapt, to save and to grow. Let me not forget again, what it really means to be a placeist.

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Reflections on Downtown Greensboro, As The Community Addresses Its Future

On Tuesday April 30, I spent a good bit of time thinking about downtown with a bunch of dignitaries and fellow young leaders. Our civic foundations brought back Richard Flierl of Cooper Carry, The Center for Connective Architecture, who helped the city conduct a downtown plan in 2002. At lunchtime, 100 of my fellow young professionals met to learn about the plan, talk about ideas to improve on it, and be encouraged to do more pop-up(tactical) urbanism.

To say that I love downtown Greensboro is a major understatement. When I was six years old and stuck inside with the chicken pox, all I missed was “seeing the tall buildings downtown.” My dad went and got me a postcard of downtown just so I could see my beloved buildings while under quarantine . What I was marveling at the most were  the  three year old Jefferson-Pilot (Lincoln Financial) and  First Union (now Wells Fargo) towers. The towers gave us a distinctive skyline and showed that we were serious about remaining a gateway city and also a prosperous city.

Yet, there was not much in the way of activity under those buildings. In 1993, when this chicken pox story happened, Elm Street laid mostly vacant, save the Miller Furniture Company and the Greensboro Record Center, which my parents went to often for the latest albums. Woolworths was still operating as a store, but it was not long before it, and the entire chain, shut down in Greensboro. The Junior League had started operating their new Bargain Box on the first floor of the original First Union building (Currently the Self-Help building, where my office is located). However, my current apartment, my favorite watering holes and restaurants, and even the room where we held this seminar did not exist. Downtown would lay fallow for at least three to six more years before major urban plans such as Flierl’s were created.

So where are we now?

Richard Flierl addresses a Who's Who of creative forces in Greensboro on April 30, 2013.

Richard Flierl addresses a Who’s Who of creative forces in Greensboro on April 30, 2013.

In a decent place according to Flierl. Many of the things he suggest we build are in place, namely Center City Park and the downtown ballpark (albiet not in the place he put them). He noted that good progress had been made on the Downtown Greenway , adding residential properties and increasing cultural events. His primary challenges were for the young professionals to continue doing pop-up activities and to the elders to finish what they started, namely the performing arts center.

(An aside: It was great to see where some of the energy and the nucleus of the performing arts center and other ideas came from. It now gives me more context as to why we are pushing so hard for certain things).

At the end of the day, he just wanted us to “get it done.”

So do I.

On the local news, I got a chance to tell a reporter that I feel like we need to work our hardest at becoming a 24 hour city. I want to be able to walk out my door, come down into that beautiful skyline and be able to pick something to do without having to dig into the Facebook invites and event calendars, or stumble on something awesome that I didn’t know was happening and don’t know when it will happen again.

Also, what about our displaced and left out residents?  Community organizer and  friend Wesley Morris challenged the young professional crowd to be  be mindful of who has been displaced by movements that have already happened. An elderly woman at the evening session reminded us that not all seniors are near death and they’d like to have a senior center in the heart of the city. Several adults who appeared to be parents of teenagers called for a downtown skate park.  We need to up the mix of people downtown. Make it accessible to children, teens, seniors and the disabled along with young professionals and wealthy people.

I am reminded of the fish market on the corner of Lee and Friendly, that happened to be surrounded by a dilapidated old bakery, but was bringing business to that corner. Yet, in the redevelopment plan, the market was moved, initially for the ballpark, but later for our yet to be conceived South Elm redevelopment. Why not develop around this market? No this isn’t a sexy businesses, but it’s business none the less. Kaid Benfield said it best in his recent list of smarter smarter growth that we really need to start growing around who’s already here and make sure they get a say and get to stay.

At the end of the day, as I’ve said in other media, downtown is really where I want to be in Greensboro. I walk to work down here, I wake up and can look out upon my beloved skyline (and the trains), and I get to meet regularly with many strong minds willing to do something to make this place a bit better.

I want everybody to be in love with downtown. If we can keep up this energy, I know everyone will be.