Geography is destiny

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brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

I’ll tell ya, I could have used the urban loop this weekend.

We decided to head out to Raleigh for the afternoon, and had the northern end of the Greensboro loop been completed I could have taken Cone Boulevard all the way east and then hopped on the loop to hit Interstate 40 inside of five minutes, instead of driving three miles south to Wendover, then taking it all the way east to the active portion of 840. Would have saved me at least 20 minutes.

If you’re anything like my kids, who were in the backseat during all this, then you probably don’t want to hear about the loop, how it — along with the Cone Boulevard Extension and the renovation of Revolution Mills — is going to change our entire neighborhood, will quite literally put it on the map. You might not even care about the concept of making good time on a drive. I know they don’t.

My kids will all be driving by the time the loop comes through, yet they still don’t see what this has to do with their lives.

I told them about a friend of mine who owns some empty property there at the fringe. Right now, it’s not even connected to the rest of that part of town — no roads, no residences, just some overgrown grass and tall pines on short time.

When I tried to evangelize him on the transformative nature of the Cone Boulevard Extension, he was right there with me.

We geeked out there for a bit right there in his office: I pulled up the Department of Transportation map on his desktop computer and we blew it up 150 percent, imagining all the possibilities once Cone pushes through the White Street Landfill and connects with the highway.

There will need to be gas stations at the exit, we agreed, and residences for commuters, who will also require places to shop, drink and exercise. Turning the dead-end into a two-way street makes every piece of property along the route more viable.

My friend has big plans for his lot, I told my kids. It’s just been sitting there for years, like a frog waiting to be kissed, until the road becomes real.

Kids don’t think five and 10 years out — it’s one of the things that makes them kids. To them the construction at the east end of Cone Boulevard looks like a bunch of trucks noisily pushing dirt and scaring off the birds.

But to some of us, that road leads to the future. Everybody else will catch up soon enough.

Read more about the Greensboro Urban Loop in this week’s cover story, starting on page 16.