by Jordan Green
The headwaters geography of the Triad means that we don’t have rivers running through the middle of our cities. That’s definitely a downside to our region. While rivers are no longer major conduits of trade, they are natural and appealing focal points for cities.
I’ve thought it and many others have suggested it before apparently, but Jason Oliver Nixon of Madcap Cottage gets the credit for raising the idea most recently. The sunken railroad tracks that run through the heart of High Point give the impression of a river.
But trains are also conduits of trade and transportation — now somewhat less so than in the past. Our region was built on trains, with High Point earning its name due to its position as the highest point on the rail line between Raleigh and Charlotte. And the recessed grade of the track, rather than interrupting the city, elegantly flows below the streets. We love to watch trains pass — it’s almost an elemental part of our being that summons our excitement about movement, industry, adventure and possibility.
So, as Nixon suggests, “The sunken train tracks in downtown High Point should be our ‘river’ and its ‘banks’ should be populated with cafés and shops much like the Riverwalk in San Antonio.”
High Point already has a first-class transit with a bridge connecting the Hi-Tran Terminal and the Amtrak station, with a staircase leading down to the platform. The segment of West Broad Avenue connecting North Main Street to the Hi-Tran Terminal already has limited vehicular access, so it would work perfectly as a pedestrian stroll way lined with cafés, restaurants, bars and gift stores. Musicians could play on the street on First Fridays from March through October.
Some might balk at the idea of al fresco dining or live music at a location where trains blast through regularly, but Natty Greene’s in Greensboro and Krankies Coffee in Winston-Salem have both proven that both of those amenities can coexist just fine with trains.
I can already hear the protestations: “But High Point is unique….”
Yes, but not in a good way.