Fresh Eyes: What the City Project has accomplished

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The furniture market’s dominance in downtown High Point has prompted efforts to create a civic gathering place.
The furniture market’s dominance in downtown High Point has prompted efforts to create a civic gathering place.

by Wendy Fuscoe

In 2008, the High Point City Council hired an executive director for the Core City Plan as a city employee and was involved in the selection of the original Core City Steering Committee, which became the board of directors, on which sat four voting city council members. Rebranded as the “City Project,” Washington Street, Uptowne, and South Main/GTCC were the focal areas identified as the Top 3 priorities for implementation in the original Core City Master Plan adopted by city council and further targeted in the Core City 5-Year Action Plan of 2007. The executive director works with a board of directors and reports to the city manager or his designee. 

Since 2007, more than $2.3 million in private dollars from foundations, grants, business and civic leaders, and others have been committed to the revitalization of these three neighborhoods in response to the efforts of the City Project. The private sector has been the largest financial contributor to property improvements, events and projects.

Over these seven years, a total of $1.9 million in public taxpayer dollars has been spent for the City Project operations, studies and plans.

As recommended in the Core City Plan by Walker Collaborative in 2006, and formally adopted by city council in 2007, the City Project in partnership with the city has focused its planning and implementation strategies on Washington Street, Uptowne and South Main/GTCC.

The City Project board and volunteers have invested, conservatively, more than 3,200 hours, with just one full-time staffer.

Festivals initiated and supported by the City Project include the Washington Street Fall Festival, the SoSi Festival, the Ilderton Beach Blast, the Uptowne Holiday Stroll and the Uptowne Market. Other events supported by the City Project include the Salon, Hopfest and the High Point Cycling Classic.

In order to facilitate tax credits for economic developers, the City Project successfully initiated placement of the Washington Street District and Uptowne on the National Historic Register.

To better attract developers, the City Project secured free technical-design assistance for the community-design workshop for the vacant land on South Main across from GTCC.

Policy changes to foster urban development such as sidewalk dining, A-frame signage and urban zoning for Washington Street and Main Street were initiated by or supported by the City Project.

The Façade Grant Program initiated and managed by the City Project for the entire core city has transformed $50,000 in public funding into $531,711 of private capital improvements to beautify our city, while increasing the tax base.

The City Project initiated Ignite High Point, raising primarily private funds to employ Andres Duany, the world’s best city planner, to create a master plan for downtown, Uptowne and HPU/College Village in order to attract private developers. As a result, 650 people signed a petition of support that was presented to city council.

The City Project has moved forward with planning for three Ignite High Point ideas generated by charrettes attended by hundreds of High Pointers: the Pit, the Library Square and city council approval of a study to determine the feasibility of narrowing a portion of North Main Street to create a walkable city and to facilitate economic development.

Wendy Fuscoe is the executive director of the City Project.