How do you activate a neighborhood?
In the case of LoFi on the north end of downtown Greensboro, it happened one storefront at a time, starting with Deep Roots and growing across the street to Crafted and Preyer Brewing. New traffic patterns and that stretch of the Downtown Greenway are finally starting to take shape. Downtown Winston-Salem’s Restaurant Row along Fourth Street benefited from a road diet and support from a strong downtown association, the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, and a legacy of political will on city council.
The neighborhood I’m choosing to call Morehead — under downtown Greensboro’s painted overpass, where Lee Comer’s massive Morehead Foundry has arisen — is a different matter entirely. Yet this is where Comer has called me to ask this very question.
The small district — once a homeless camp — is anchored by the piece of greenway that runs south through an iconic, gaslit tunnel, though it remains unconnected to the rest of the pedestrian loop. The rest of Morehead, cornered by Spring Garden Street and Freeman Mill Road, is easily traversable by car but a little hostile to foot traffic and will be until the greenway connects. A bike path that runs west on Spring Garden all the way to Holden Road forms its most viable artery.
Its lack of connectivity aside, other factors mitigate Morehead as a standalone district: compelling imagery in the overpass mural, created by Miami arts collective Primary Flight, and the concrete sofa along the greenway. And then there is the matter of capital investment, which was able to catalyze the Arts & Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem and Elm Street’s South End.
Morehead Foundry carries a price tag of at least $4.5 million spread between its farm-to-fork restaurant, a burger joint, a coffeeshop, a speakeasy and a massive event space. It’s got everything. Except, Comer admits, enough customers to sustain it.
“So,” she asks me again, “how do we activate a neighborhood?”
On the relative island of Morehead, there are no easy answers.