Featured photo: MODSTREET Parklets at School House Kitchen and Libations in downtown Olde Town, Colorado (courtesy photo)

Outdoor dining patios made popular during the pandemic are here to stay. Downtown Greensboro Inc. is partnering with Modstreet of Durango, Co. to construct 13 permanent outdoor patios, with installations beginning next week.

According to a June 1 post on DGI’s website, the temporary outdoor dining patios installed in 2020 are being removed to “pave the way for new permanent outdoor dining patios to be installed at the same establishments beginning on June 12.” All patios are expected to be completed within four days. The outdoor patios are ADA compliant and fit within one or two parking spaces and are safety-tested to withstand vehicle impact up to 30 miles per hour, adding 8-12 dining seats to a restaurant depending on the size of their patio according to DGI’s site. 

The patios cost a total of $430,700 — covered by $142,700 in city funding and $288,140 from DGI.

“This is the largest one-time investment DGI has ever made back to the community. And so for us it was really about finding a partner in this,” according to DGI’s Director of Strategic Initiatives Rob Overman.

City contributes funding

According to city documents, significant financial constraints were placed on businesses with temporary outdoor dining patios as many of them lacked basic design elements and failed to comply with accessibility requirements. 

“Not all of these business owners have the resources necessary to bring these outdoor areas into compliance with accessibility standards, or to bring them up to a uniform design that would beautify the downtown landscape. In order to ensure accessibility and beautification, city council must grant funding,” the document states.

The resolution authorizing the funding agreement with DGI passed 8-0 in July 2022. Mayor Nancy Vaughan recused herself from voting on the item since she was a member of DGI’s board of directors. City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba is listed on the current board of directors, as well as chairman of Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston and County Manager Michael Halford. Vaughan is no longer listed.

The project is an idea that’s been in the works for around two years, said Overman, adding that the patios were ordered in January.

DGI’s President and CEO Zack Matheny was re-elected to city council in 2022 after having previously stepped down from his seat on council in June 2015, just days before being named head of DGI. In 2015, Matheny told TCB that he resigned to avoid a perceived conflict of interest. According to publicly available tax documents from 2021, Matheny gleaned an annual salary of $172,058 as DGI’s president and CEO. DGI’s chief financial officer and next highest-paid employee, Joy Ross, was paid $65,403. In 2020, DGI’s total revenue amounted to $1,895,606 with $1,464,904 in total functional expenses, generating a net income of $430,702.

Overman adopted the project when he came on board in September 2022.

DGI will own the patios and lease single or double patios to restaurant owners. Monthly rates are $250 for a single, $400 for a double, according to Overman.

According to Modstreet’s co-founder Maggie Kavan, the products are meant to last 25-30 years.

A changing downtown

It made logical sense to partner with the city, Overman said, explaining that they would be working with the city anyway to get authorization for things like extending licensed premises, etc.

“It was easy working with the city, and everybody agreed that this was a fantastic idea,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Trey Davis told Triad City Beat that it took a “considerable amount of coordination and other things that had to be done to get to this place for installation.”

Council passed several amendments to existing ordinances in October 2022 that many critics said target the houseless community. Matheny was among the councilmembers who voted in favor of the amendments.

Sec. 18-44 of the city’s code was altered to specify that anyone or object that prevents 36 inches of clear access “to freely pass through a sidewalk, public passageway or entrance or exit to a building” would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $50, and Sec. 16-10 was changed to state that anyone who leaves “any object, substance, or waste” on the street or in a public space would be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and fined a maximum of $50. 

The new patios could be viewed as hypocritical given the new amendments that appeared to target houseless people leaving belongings on sidewalks, but Overman said that they’d be in accordance with city code.

“Depending on the site, some of them will have an ADA-compliant ramp…. Some of them will have ramps that come onto the sidewalks but will maintain ADA-compliance with the 36 inches that you have to have on the sidewalk,” he said. “Greensboro has wide sidewalks so we’re fortunate.”

Permanent patios will be installed at the following 13 locations:

  • ‘cille & ’scoe
  • Blue Denim
  • Cheesecakes by Alex
  • Crafted
  • Green Bean
  • Grey‘s Tavern
  • Lao
  • Lewis & Elm
  • Little Brother
  • Los Chicos
  • Natty Greene’s
  • Stumble Stilskins
  • White & Wood

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