by Eric Ginsburg
A city’s downtown is both its doormat and its heart. It’s the throbbing core that pumps life into the veins of culture throughout the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the welcoming committee for strangers, a sort of compass or table of contents for what the place is all about.
That’s why for the last two years around this time of year, I’ve attempted to compile a comprehensive list of what’s changing in downtown Greensboro, and what else is coming down the pipe. Part of that process demands thinking about the things we still need.
And so after a strong reception in November 2014, I’m doing it again, taking a close look at the shifts happening in the city’s core and what remains to be done.
What happens downtown reverberates in the rest of the city — political power, cultural currency, historical memory and economic vibrancy emanate from these blocks. So regardless of whether or not you live, work or play in downtown Greensboro, if you live in the city, what happens there affects you.
What’s new, and planned
- Outwardly, almost nothing has changed at the former Cascade Saloon building at the train tracks crossing South Elm Street by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in two years. The city gave it to Preservation Greensboro to restore, and though the organization announced a construction company as the main tenant, progress is far behind initial projections.
- This time last year, we still didn’t know the theme for the second Crafted restaurant. In the spring of 2015, the street-food restaurant and adjacent Preyer Brewing opened and were welcomed like a first grandchild into the north end of downtown.
- Though a mixed-use development had been planned nearby across the Eugene Street intersection, it stalled out and never materialized. But then in October, Triad City Beat broke the news that the city’s latest brewery, Joymongers, would open on the empty lot. Construction began almost immediately.
- A short block of Battleground Avenue in front of the planned Joymongers brewery closed this fall as part of the planned Downtown Greenway and a pocket park.
- Construction of the greenway nearby, including the area between Prescott and Spring streets along Smith Street, is behind schedule. The construction had to be re-bid in October 2015 due to a high cost from an initial bidder.
- But design for the greenway “innovation cornerstone” at Lindsay Street and Murrow Boulevard was also approved in October, with work slated for the coming months.
- The Greenway at Stadium Park apartments, owned in part by Jim Jones who is opening Joymongers brewery with his son and former Natty Greene’s brewmaster Mike Rollinson, opened during the last year. Following the model Jones created with his brother with the Greenway at Fisher Park apartments across the street, the apartments add residential units that help create density downtown.
- Two downtown churches played a little musical chairs in 2015, as Center City Church took over the former Christ Church building next to Local House Bar on Smith Street. The newer tenant is renovating, emulating the style of Crafted and Preyer around the corner, and members say it will include a small coffeeshop and gallery. Christ Church relocated to North Church Street.