“My Fair City,” an election-eve fair hosted by We “Heart” High Point at the High Point Museum today brought together a host of entrepreneurs, designers, small business owners and community organizers who are engaged in efforts to revitalize different areas of High Point, including Washington Street, Uptowne, West End and the Southwest Renewal Area.
Freeman Kennett Architects, a local firm, unveiled a video (posted above), articulating a proposal for the development of the Pit. The recessed gathering space, excavated from a failed parking deck, was championed by urban designer Andres Duany last year as a draw for millennials from across North Carolina and a focal point for young entrepreneurs and makers.
As a forum for music, dance and theater comparable to the Railyard Arts District in Santa Fe, NM, the video argues that “the Pit offers a flexible and diverse venue, providing opportunities for performances of varying sizes and production.” The narrator goes to say that a core goal for the Pit “is to provide a place for commerce, to show and display innovation, and to entice a vibrant exchange of good, services and ideas.”
The city is the butt of jokes among some Triad residents who see it as a backwater lagging behind the economic and cultural progress of neighboring cities Winston-Salem and Greensboro, but revitalization proponents argue that High Point has superior potential.
The video promoting the Pit produced by Freeman Kennett describes High Point as “a place that builds on our attributes and utilizes our strengths, a place that capitalizes on great transportation, an extraordinary university, a craft and manufacturing base, a can-do spirit and the simple notion that thousands of retail buyers from around the globe descend upon our great city twice a year, a place that recognizes the creative class is here: interior designers, photographers, builders, innovators and craftsmen with generations of experience in furniture, textiles and lighting and transforming showrooms to the limits of the imagination.”
What’s missing, the narrator goes on to say, “is a system that cultivates creativity, an economic and political culture that advances innovation without barriers.”
The narrator in the video sets out a vision for the operation of the space.
“The Pit development group would hold a lease with the city,” the narrator says. “In turn, the development group would hold oversight by interested citizens to encourage availability to a variety of entities. The group would also develop, administer and operate events and opportunities in the intended spirit. As a lessee the organization would ask the city to provide only the basic improvements to provide safety, accessibility, and the availability of utilities. Leasehold improvements would be made by the development group. Additional improvements like bars, seating and urban art would be realized through competitions, volunteers and interested artisans.”
Peter Freeman said his firm produced the video in the hope that an individual or small group will incorporate a nonprofit or LLC to enter into an agreement with the city to operate the Pit.
“We want the arts and crafts to play into the local economy,” he said. “We want to plug it into the craft history of the and the market we have here. There are people who are out of work, and generations of furniture makers. There are 39,000 buyers who come here every year. How do you plug into that?
“The key part of the development is that this thing has to be communal,” he continued. “Everybody has to have a chance to participate. It belongs to the city, but it shouldn’t be run by the city.”
The “My Fair City” event provided a forum for cross-pollination, allowing visitors and exhibitors alike to learn about a variety of revitalization initiatives, make new contacts and exchange ideas. Exhibitors included Green Door Wheel Works, American Society of Interior Designers, Southwest Renewal Foundation, Washington Street Business Association, High Point Market Authority, XII Tribes Brewing, the High Point Mural Project and the High Point Arts Council. Hamilton Street Bistro provides samples of its delectable pumpkin bread pudding.
The event drew several candidates for city council, including mayoral hopefuls Bill Bencini and Marcus Brandon, along with at-large candidates David Rosen, Latimer Alexander and Orrick Quick, and Ward 3 candidate Alyce Hill.