by Brian Clarey, Eric Ginsburg and Jordan Green
We can measure a year in months and minutes, or mark the seasons as they go by.
But to really comprehend the last 365 days in the Triad, we need to look at what happened.
It’s part of our mission to help people understand their time and place, so every year we chronicle the people, places, moments, topics and things that have shaped our lives.
Within these 100 points of light, a picture forms, a portrait of our cities as they are, warts and all.
2015 saw heroes and villains, intrigue and ineptitude, beauty and destruction. And all of it conspired to bring us from the place we were… to the place we are.
1. Rhiannon Giddens
Besides her turn at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, native daughter Rhiannon Giddens had a huge year, releasing her solo debut album, Tomorrow is My Turn, in February, pulling off an impeccable performance on one of the last episodes of “Late Night with David Letterman” and landing on the cover of TCB in April.
2. Travis Page
The death of 31-year-old Travis Page in police custody after being pepper-sprayed prompted immediate calls for transparency and accountability by community leaders in Winston-Salem this December. District Attorney Jim O’Neill has said the release of the video of Page’s death is prohibited by prosecutorial rules enjoining lawyers from making “extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused” and because the video is considered evidence in an ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, mindful of upheaval across the country in response to young, black men dying at the hands of the police, city leaders have called for the release of the video as quickly as possible.
3. Al Heggins
While Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan coordinated with the Rev. Nelson Johnson to ease racial tensions, the city of High Point took the opposite tack, sidelining and eventually firing Human Relations Director Al Heggins when she organized community forums to allow citizens to talk about police-community relations. Heggins has filed a complaint against the city with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This saga is definitely not over.
4. Trudy Wade
We thought we were done with Trudy Wade when she left her Greensboro City Council District 5 seat to take a spot in the state Senate. But among the legislation she sponsored this year was a move to redistrict Greensboro into eight districts, up from five, eliminating at-large positions and revoking the mayor’s vote. SB 36 eventually passed after being rolled into a House bill, prompting a lawsuit by the city and a judge’s injunction, stalling the deal until the legal air clears. Rumors of new candidates waiting in the wings seemed, come election time, spurious.
5. Mark Walker and Alma Adams
For the first time in more than two decades, Greensboro and High Point have not just one but two new representatives in the US House. Republican Mark Walker was elected to replace Howard Coble, who died in 2015 after retiring from Congress. And Democrat Alma Adams won election to the seat vacated by Mel Watt, who accepted an appointment by President Obama to head the Federal Housing Finance Authority. Walker has focused on human trafficking, among other issues, in his first term in office, while Adams has tackled food insecurity and veterans’ issues.
6. Larry Woods
Larry Woods, the independent-minded CEO of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, has ingratiated himself to Republican members of Congress by warning that many residents have become dependent on public housing. But Democratic Mayor Allen Joines has also forged an alliance with Woods, grafting the agency head’s initiative onto his anti-poverty agenda. With grand opening of the new Camden Station community this year, the housing authority expanded its stock of housing geared towards incentivizing residents to look for work.
7. Andy Zimmerman
Before long, developer and sweatpants fan Andy Zimmerman is going to need a trophy room for all the awards and salutatory newspaper articles written about him. This year, Crafted and Preyer opened in one of his renovated buildings, he took aim at new properties in downtown Greensboro’s South End including the former Lotus Lounge and Flying Anvil, and HQ Greensboro co-working space opened in another one of his properties. Renovation is underway on a nearby corner property he owns, and Greensboro Distilling signed a lease to open next door to Gibb’s Hundred Brewing (both in buildings Zimmerman owns and renovated).
8. Mike Coe
Not everyone knows Mike Coe, but he’s an important player as a property owner and developer in Winston-Salem, with holdings in the Downtown Arts District. In 2015, he stepped up to a more prominent position by jumpstarting the renovation of the Pepper Building, a strategically placed property that will tie Restaurant Row on West Fourth Street to the government district. City council approved $1.6 million in low-interest loans to restore the 1927 building with a ground-floor restaurant and retail, along with rental units, in November. The loan would come from the city’s new workforce housing program, which is designed to incentivize affordable housing.
9. Paul Foley
Paul Foley, a young attorney who moved to Winston-Salem in 2011 to take a job at the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm, rapidly rose through the ranks of the GOP thanks to his campaign work on behalf of Pat McCrory during the 2012 gubernatorial campaign, for which he was awarded a seat on the state Board of Elections. Revelations in the News & Observer that Foley intervened in an elections staff investigation into Chase Burns, an Oklahoma sweepstakes executive who donated to the McCrory campaign and also happened to be a client of Foley’s law firm, led to the young lawyer’s abrupt resignation from the board in July.
10. Justin Outling
This is the year that lawyer Justin Outling catapulted from the chair of the city’s minimum housing commission to the history books after first being appointed and then being elected to represent District 3 on Greensboro City Council. It’s not just notable that Outling, a first-time candidate, won by a considerable margin, or that he did so as a first-time candidate or as a Democrat in a seat that’s historically been held by Republicans (though races are nonpartisan). It’s also that Outling is the first black member of council elected in a district race where the voters are majority white. Since joining council in the summer, Outling has demonstrated that he’s an independent thinker who doesn’t vote based on faction, party line or ideology, a decision-making approach that his campaign focused heavily on.
11. Frank Gilliam
The public reception for Frank Gilliam, the newly appointed chancellor at UNCG, in May drew dignitaries like US Rep. Alma Adams and former Greensboro mayor Jim Melvin. Considering the autocratic and opaque leadership style of his predecessor, Linda Brady, Gilliam’s arrival was greeted by faculty as a chance for a new start. Gilliam took the job after serving as dean of the school of public affairs at UCLA. Since his first day on the job in September, Gilliam has focused mostly on familiarizing himself with the university’s bureaucracy and student culture.
12. Eric Robert
The downtown Greensboro property owner doesn’t just belong on this list because he purchased a building at the corner of Lewis and South Elm streets this year, with costly renovations already underway, but that’s part of it. More notably, Eric Robert is currently suing the city, with a deposition of Mayor Nancy Vaughan happening in secret this November after a contentious deposition in late October. The outcome of the suit, which revolves around the mill Robert owns a couple blocks from his new property, is yet to be determined.
13. Wayne Scott
What a year for Wayne Scott. In March, Scott was named chief of the Greensboro Police Department, where he had served as deputy chief. He was selected over Danielle Outlaw, who at the time served as a deputy police chief in Oakland, Calif. Later in 2015, after the publication of an article highlighting the department’s practices in the New York Times (see item No. 57), Scott decided to temporarily suspend vehicle stops due to vehicle equipment infractions, a bold move that some critics say does not go far enough but that the TCB editorial staff applauded as a first step.
14. Bernie Sanders, Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Jill Stein
The contrast between the popular appeal of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who drew an overflow crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center in September, and Green Party hopeful Dr. Jill Stein, who attracted about 40 people as part of a panel discussion at Guilford College in November, could hardly be sharper. Republican presidential Candidate Dr. Ben Carson also visited the Triad in 2015, with a stop at Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem in late September.
15. Jack Bonney
The Greensboro music scene lost a key player in November when Jack Bonney packed up his belongings and moved to Durham to help run the new Carolina Soul record store. Since arriving from Baltimore 18 years ago, Bonney played a seminal if unheralded role in the Triad music scene, managing the UNCG campus radio station, spending time at WSNC, promoting concerts, DJ-ing parties and selling vinyl.
16. Paul Lowe
Winston-Salem got a new state senator in February when the Forsyth County Democrats selected the Rev. Paul Lowe to replace Earline Parmon, who resigned to handle constituent services for US Rep. Alma Adams. Lowe, who serves as pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church, has a long track record of community leadership, taking a position against the marriage amendment in 2012 and speaking out against the county’s handling of the tax revaluation in 2013, among other highlights.
17. Aldona Wos
Dr. Aldona Wos came to prominence by raising funds for various Republican causes and candidates in her Greensboro home, riding her connections to become President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Estonia and later, in 2012, the head of Gov. Pat McCrory’s Department. of Health & Human Services. She resigned in August, about six weeks before the subpoenas came down from a grand jury investigation into hiring practices, compensation and no-bid contracts within the department. No indictments yet, but Thomas Walker, US Attorney for the Eastern District where the investigation began, stepped down last week.
18. Nathan Wilson
As evidence that justice is rarely perfect, the Guilford County District Attorney dropped a murder charge and released a 42-year-old High Point black man named Nathan Wilson in February after he was held for more than a year. The police had built their case around statements by two career criminals who cooperated in exchange for leniency and by many accounts weren’t even at the scene of the crime. The district attorney ultimately decided to free Wilson based on DNA evidence that returned from the state lab with inconclusive results. In many ways, the case illustrates how lack of trust between the black community and the police undermines justice: More than 100 people were present at the nightclub where the murder occurred, and not one of them saw fit to give a statement to the police.
Winston-Salem native and piano-pop notable Ben Folds performed in Winston-Salem for the first time in more than a decade. The guy who cut his teeth with Evan Olson in Majosha took the stage this time with the Piedmont Wind Symphony in December.
20. Tony Wilkins
The councilman’s hair went white during the summer months when he was defending Senate Bill 36, likely at the behest of the woman whose campaigns he’s managed. But his adamant position and allusions to “big daddy” didn’t cost him anything in the election. Running unopposed in District 5 gave him the green light to continue as the cantankerous conservative on city council, which apparently suits him just fine. Whispers of a state House run against Rep. John Blust turned out to be just that: wind.
21. April Parker
A primary voice of Greensboro’s Black Lives Matter movement and a principal in the Queer People of Color Collective had a big year, including an appearance on a February cover of TCB. With protest actions against police violence, in support of inclusion among the LGBT community and election work for Thessa Pickett in District 1, she escalated her presence for revolutionary causes. In November, as part of a city work-group convened to facilitate better relations among citizens and police, Parker called for the removal of the city manager and police chief, demonstrating that the next generation of activists is coming out swinging.
22. Tiger Woods
He didn’t win, but disgraced golfer Tiger Woods made a pretty strong showing during his first-ever appearance at the Wyndham Championship, Greensboro’s PGA event, coming into Day 4 at 13 under par and bringing in record crowds. But after a disastrous fourth round, including a triple bogey on the 11th hole, his season ended at Sedgefield.
23. Skip Alston
This guy: The former director of the board that runs the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in downtown Greensboro and ex-chair of the Guilford County Commission didn’t have an office to run for this year, but he kept his hand in the game by backing Wade’s gambit, claiming that the redistricting would increase African-American representation on Greensboro City Council. When the city sued for an injunction, Alston mustered a group to file an intervening motion. He was also part of the museum group that “accidentally” sued the News & Record for libel in December, though that lawsuit was pulled a day later.
24. Charles Aycock
Turns out one of the state’s most prominent citizens — and for whom a street, a neighborhood, a school and an auditorium at UNCG are named — was very much a bad guy. Charles Aycock was elected governor of the state in a campaign that pushed segregation, white supremacy and the systemic disenfranchisement of black voters. UNCG brought up the idea of changing the name of its auditorium on its own.
25. Roy Carroll
If you don’t recognize the name Roy Carroll, you either just moved to town or don’t live in Greensboro. Because Carroll, now the publisher of the Rhino Times conservative opinion-based publication, is one of the city’s largest developers, with a hand in everything from a possible new skyscraper to a recent noise ordinance. Carroll purchased the CityView apartments in Southside and convinced the city to close part of Lindsay Street by the Grasshoppers stadium for a new apartment complex and hotel project of his own. Progress did occur this year on the site, known as the Bellemeade Village or less officially as Carrolltown, but one would have to pay close attention to notice the minimal changes behind the construction fencing.
26. Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet
The guard in downtown Winston-Salem’s Arts District is constantly changing. This year painter, muralist and gallery stalwart Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet cut loose after more than 15 years at [email protected], which she says has become more of a gallery than a studio. “The galleries do well while studio artists suffer,” she told TCB in November. “I think that just happens in cities. I don’t think there’s anything we can do to prevent it.”
27. Brent Christensen
The Greensboro Partnership has undergone numerous significant changes as of late, the most recent being the arrival of new CEO Brent Christensen, who arrived from Mississippi in the early summer. He brought David Ramsey, the new vice president of economic development at the partnership, with him from the Mississippi Development Authority. The two men were widely heralded as a breath of fresh air, particularly thanks to Christensen’s experience, candidness and approach to the position.
28. Zack Matheny
In the timeline of Zack Matheny’s life, there may be several years more significant than 2015, but it’d be hard for this one not to rank near the top. For starters, Matheny resigned from his position on Greensboro City Council — commenting at the time that his wife and kids had only ever known him in the role — to run Downtown Greensboro Inc. In many ways, Matheny had led the charge against his predecessor, Jason Cannon, for his handling of several issues. And then, not long after taking the organization’s helm, Matheny received a DWI. He managed to hold onto his post, though his director of operations resigned promptly after the incident.
29. Nancy Vaughan
The mayor of Greensboro breezed through her re-election campaign this fall, becoming the first mayor since Keith Holliday to win a second term (Yvonne Johnson, Bill Knight and Robbie Perkins all served just one term as mayor). Vaughan prides herself and this council on avoiding contentiousness while still tackling other issues that previous councils and mayors avoided like contagious diseases, such as any mention of the Greensboro Massacre or police accountability.
30. Bailey Park and Artivity on the Green
Downtown Winston-Salem’s public parks took a quantum leap forward in 2015. On any given Friday from May through October, art-crawl revelers could be seen frolicking in the new Artivity on the Green, a reclaimed parking lot surrounded by a 124-foot mural wall, centered on majestic red spires with mist shooting into the air. Drive a couple blocks over to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and there was the new Bailey Park, most likely with a band playing on the stage. Stitch Design Shop, incidentally, won awards for both projects from the American Institute of Architects’ Winston-Salem Design Section, which covers 11 counties in northwest North Carolina.
31. Rich Fork Preserve
The 117-acre Rich Fork Preserve surfaced as a bright spot on the horizon for High Point in early 2015. A gorgeous natural area surrounding a 19th Century farmstead, the preserve lies in the central-western part of the city. But the preserve quickly became a flashpoint in a controversy over the Guilford County Open Space program, with partisans squabbling over whether mountain biking should be allowed on the property. As the year ends, the Guilford County Commission appears intent on deciding in favor of the mountain bikers.
The announcement in November that Ziggy’s, Winston-Salem’s storied music venue, will be closing came as little surprise to many, but still represents a seismic shift. Landlords Hank Perkins and Drew Gerstmyer made the decision not to renew the lease after February 2016, but longstanding tensions between the owners of the business had already frayed the venue to the breaking point. Expect partners Charles Womack and Brad McCauley to try to open a new venue in Winston-Salem in the new year, while Jay Stephens pursues a separate venture as a local concert promoter.
33. Business 40
Renovations to the Business 40 expressway through downtown Winston-Salem won’t begin until the fall of 2016, but the project came into sharp focus in 2015 with the unveiling of iconic bridge designs by the non-profit Creative Corridors Coalition, which contracted a trio of renowned architects — Donald McDonald, Larry Kirkland and Walter Hood. And over the summer, the city nailed down federal air-quality funds to pay for a multi-use path running parallel to the expressway that will link Baptist Hospital to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
34. North Elm District
For the second year, a handful of High Point companies specializing in one-of-a-kind items marketed themselves as the North Elm District, or NED — part of an effort to distinguish themselves from the gargantuan showrooms owned by industry giant International Market Centers. The effort has only been partially successful: Some of the owners of Club Cu confessed that they were a little fuzzy on the concept and a pair of NED shoppers at the showroom said they had never heard of it during the fall market in October.
35. Ardmore Terrace Apartments
Winston-Salem’s growing challenge of retaining affordable housing took a dramatic turn when Councilman Dan Besse learned that his apartment at Ardmore Terrace near Baptist Hospital would be torn down to make way for high-end housing. Besse announced he would be moving so that he could fight the redevelopment plan without having a conflict of interest. At last check, he hadn’t made much headway in coming to a workable compromise with the owners of the properties. The plan stirred up anger and dismay about the fate of elderly residents who will be hard pressed to find new housing that is as affordable and convenient.
36. Reynolds Building
The 22-story Reynolds Building, a model for the Empire State Building in New York City, was purchased by Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group and PMC Property Group in 2014, but many Winston-Salem leaders got their first look inside the art deco monument known for its tobacco leaf-themed metalwork in January 2015. No surprise that the Winston-Salem City Council approved a historic landmark designation for the building this year.
37. Hanes-Lowrance Middle School
A newspaper exposé published by the Winston-Salem Journal in January suggesting that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools had significantly downplayed the presence of toxic chemicals in the groundwater beneath Hanes-Lowrance Middle School set off panic among some parents. In less than three weeks, the school board would vote to close the school as parents pulled their children out. But later other parents expressed dismay about the closure of an urban school, and Lenny Siegel, a nationally renowned expert on vapor intrusion, told TCB he thought the district had overreacted.
38. First Baptist Church
A year after the collapse of the Kilby Hotel on Washington Street, the historic black commercial district of High Point, the city knocked down First Baptist Church, a focal point of civil rights organizing in the 1960s. The loss of the two historic buildings, which were next door to each other, dealt a blow to the street, where local entrepreneurs have focused revitalization efforts for decades. Meanwhile, talk of a new ballpark at the thoroughfare’s western end has kindled cautious optimism about the district’s future. An art gallery, coffeehouse, clothing store and mature folks nightclub all populate the street, but the most viable business remains soul-food standby Becky’s and Mary’s.
39. High Point library plaza
High Point may seem to have returned to stasis since the election of Mayor Bill Bencini and a new city council, but on at least one front the city is moving forward. City council voted in early May to create a plaza as a public gathering space in front of High Point Public Library, overcoming resistance from a conservative faction that wanted to save money and retain more parking.
40. Entertainment District
Developers Hank Perkins and Drew Gerstmyer significantly expanded on Winston-Salem’s Entertainment District, an actual zoning classification drawn around their real-estate holdings at the north end of Trade Street, with the opening of Camel City BBQ Factory. The partners also made a lateral move and a strategic retreat. The District Rooftop Bar & Grill, located on the developers’ anchor property, closed in late May, and the chain Famous Toastery opened in the space the next month. Meanwhile, the partners announced in November that they would not renew the lease for Ziggy’s. (See item No. 32.)
41. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Nope, not talking about the gritty boulevards with the same namesake in Greensboro and Winston-Salem; the city of High Point finally named one of its streets in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. With a new mayor and new members filling four other seats, city council dispatched an olive branch of reconciliation in January, folding in a decision to change the name of College Drive to University Drive. The new signs went up in December. Now that High Point has finally caught up to 1990, folks in Winston-Salem are starting to talk about renaming a street in honor of Barack Obama. Now that should be controversial.
42. Andrews High School
Rodney Wilds, a popular principal, was reassigned from Andrews High School in High Point to Dudley High School in Greensboro in 2015. The reassignment exacerbated parents and alumni’s existential anxiety as enrollment at the school has dropped over the years and become less diverse, with black students increasing proportionate to their white counterparts. “Mr. Wilds brought stability, but he’s taken out and sent to Dudley,” the Rev. J. Robert Dudley, who announces football and basketball games at the school, told TCB. “Dudley was in the same position as us. They were worried about their stability at Dudley, so they took our strong leader and gave him to Dudley.”
The Greensboro burger joint was named the Best Burger in America in July by Trip Advisor, creating even more stress on the tenuous parking situation on Spring Garden Street. Shortly afterwards, Josephine’s next door reimagined itself as Scrambled, a Southern breakfast place, and Hops announced a second location on Battleground Avenue.
44. Lewis Street
Gunplay in August near the Lotus Lounge took the life of a 19-year-old, after which business owner Paul Talley closed the club and owner Eric Robert sold the building to Andy Zimmerman. The spot at the end of the block has yet to be occupied again, but Zimmerman’s other tenants, HQ Greensboro and the Forge, bring entrepreneurial energy to the street. Gibb’s Hundred, which won a Gold Medal in the Great American Beer Festival for its ESB, continues apace. And Greensboro Distilling signed a lease to move into the Forge space at the start of 2016.
We’ve taken to calling the recently activated neighborhood at the junction of Eugene, Smith and Battleground Lower Fisher, or LoFi, for its position at the southern edge of Fisher Park. It’s been a big year for the corner where Deep Roots settled, with the addition of Preyer Brewing and Crafted Street, and a leg of the Downtown Greenway supposedly coming through in 2016. Does anyone even remember what used to be there?
Greensboro developer Marty Kotis secured enough property along the Battleground/Lawndale corridor to create his own district, which he’s dubbed Midtown. Within its confines are the Marshall Free House (Marty’s), Burger Warfare (Marty’s), Mac’s Speed Shop (not Marty’s), Pig Pounder Brewery (Marty’s), World of Beer (not Marty’s, but he rents to them) and Red Cinema (Marty’s), with a future leg of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway running right through it. Several other chains, including Chicken Salad Chick and Potbelly Sandwich Shop, took up residence along Westover Terrace.
47. Downtown Greenway
Development continued along the Downtown Greenway this year, although the Greensboro project is behind schedule. A short block of Battleground Avenue did close in front of the planned Joymongers brewery — which is rapidly being built — for a pocket park as part of the greenway, though construction of a nearby stretch of the path is lagging behind. A design for the greenway’s northeast corner was approved in October.
48. Revolution Mill
The work underway to transform Revolution Mill will likely also transform the surrounding area of northeast Greensboro as millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the former mill’s renovation. With Self Help on board and likely a gigantic Natty Greene’s brewing campus, the site will be increasingly unrecognizable to those who last saw it just a year or two ago.
49. May Way dumplings
Finally, a menu dedicated to something the Triad generally lacked until now: dumplings. The compact and affordable Chinese restaurant invited the public inside near the end of the summer and TCB food writer Eric Ginsburg was certainly impressed.
Not only did this coffeeshop and cultural staple undergo dramatic renovations this year, but Krankies began serving food in 2015. And good food, too. The Winston-Salem hub managed to host shows for Phuzz Phest through it all, and the new space looks pretty incredible.
51. Sutler’s Spirit
The Triad’s first legal distillery in generations technically opened in 2014, but it didn’t have any product on North Carolina ABC store shelves until this year. The arrival of the black ceramic gin bottles proved to be a watershed moment — stores immediately and repeatedly ran out of stock, and Sutler’s Spirit can hardly keep up with demand — for the company and the industry locally. Since then Broad Branch Distilling has opening in Winston-Salem as well, to be followed shortly by Greensboro Distilling in 2016 if all goes as planned.
52 .Natty Greene’s
Greensboro’s longstanding and oldest brewery is outgrowing its production facility across from the Greensboro Coliseum, and in its quest for a new campus akin to what Stone Brewing had in mind for its East Coast facility (which almost landed in Greensboro), Natty Greene’s owners said early this year that they would need to consider all options, including those outside the city. But as 2016 approached, it appeared that only the minutia remained in working out a deal for the brewing company to relocate and expand at the Revolution Mill property in northeast Greensboro.
53. Greensboro skatepark
It’s an honor to be able to include the city’s skatepark under “places” this year, though to be fair the long-desired facility is still not a reality. But in 2015, the process finally gained traction thanks to city council, and a location near Greenhill Cemetery and Latham Park was selected.
54. Silo Deli
After Michael Touby’s allegations of unpaid debts by Silo’s then owner in February, Will Kingery bought the Reynolda Village restaurant and bar. Kingery, who also owns Willow’s Bistro and King’s Crab Shack, made another big change in Winston-Salem’s culinary world, bringing in chef Travis Myers from River Birch Lodge to Willow’s.
55. Voting rights trial
North Carolina became the flashpoint for the national struggle over voting rights when the state’s election law — considered the most restrictive voting law in the country — went on trial in federal court in Winston-Salem. The Republican-controlled General Assembly pushed through the controversial legislation shortly after the US Supreme Court struck down significant portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring North Carolina and other states to get preclearance before undertaking electoral changes. Judge Thomas Schroeder has yet to decide the case, but the Advancement Project, one of the plaintiffs, predicts that: “his ruling will have sweeping consequences for the state of voting rights nationwide.”
56. Crafted/Preyer opens
The opening of Crafted: the Art of Street Food and Preyer Brewing, two adjacent businesses sharing a building, represented a significant shift not just for the LoFi neighborhood but also for downtown Greensboro more broadly. A mini parking battle with neighbors ensued after the venues opened, underscoring the changing nature of the area and the expansion of downtown off of Elm Street.
57. New York Times exposé
When a front-page Sunday New York Times investigative piece highlighted the disparate treatment of black motorists in Greensboro in late October, the city sprang into action. TCB Associate Editor Eric Ginsburg contributed research to the article, and a follow up in the New York Times quoted work by TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green. For some, the article dramatically changed the way they looked at the city’s police department and allegations of racial disparities.
58. Greensboro Massacre marker
In May, more than 35 years after the incident, a historical marker for the Nov. 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre was unveiled not far from downtown. More than 100 people gathered to commemorate the victims of a Klan/Nazi attack on an anti-racist, communist and labor rally in the former Morningside Homes complex, including survivors of the massacre.
59. Central Carolina Worker Justice Center
In September, the Central Carolina Worker Justice Center opened on the fringes of downtown Greensboro in a building operated by the Interactive Resource Center. The worker justice center has since hosted movie screenings, meetings and other labor-oriented events in a space proponents heralded as a new organizing hub. It’s a joint project of numerous local organizations including NC Raise Up, the North Carolina AFL-CIO, Black Lives Matter, the Greensboro YWCA and more.
60. Hornets D-League
The Charlotte Hornets announced in October that it had selected Greensboro as the home for its forthcoming development league team, the Swarm. The minor-league team will play its games, beginning with next year’s season, in the Pavilion at the Greensboro Coliseum complex. It’s a big win for the city, which won out over others in both Carolinas to land the team, and for Triad basketball fans especially.
61. Greensboro College sexual harassment
The 2015-2016 school year started off a little rocky at Greensboro College as one or more first-year students allegedly sexually harassed and heckled fellow students during a performance of a play about sexual assault. The school promptly swung into action, promising a full investigation and saying it would take the matter seriously. But with the semester now over, no public announcement about the end of the school’s investigation ever came, despite a comment from the school’s spokesperson in mid-September saying a statement would arrive “fairly quick.”
62. Maya Angelou estate sale
Though the legendary writer and former Wake Forest University professor Maya Angelou passed away in 2014, her estate sale was held this August. It drew massive crowds for the multi-day event at her home not far from campus, as people traipsed through, looking for pieces of Angelou’s legacy.
63. International Market Centers aborted IPO
International Market Centers is the undisputed heavyweight in the world of furniture showroom leases, controlling 42.6 percent of real estate in High Point’s central business district, according to a 2014 analysis by TCB. So plans by the Las Vegas-based company, which is owned in part by Bain Capital, to go public were closely watched. But the company pulled back from the gambit in May, despite attracting considerable interest from investors. Company spokesperson Eden Bloss said the company’s decision was influenced by volatility in Standard & Poor’s financial ratings and a 6 percent drop in the RMZ real estate index. The company took on significant debt in August 2014 in preparation for the initial public offering. A prospectus put out by International Market Centers hints at some of the company’s challenges: “Our ability to achieve profitability is dependent on a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control.”
64. Coltrane festival
The smooth jazz and R&B that typifies the lineup at the John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival is the musical equivalent of cheap, Chinese imports in the furniture industry — it’s what the current market demands. Still, there were moments at this year’s festival in High Point when artists referenced the iconoclastic legacy of the city’s native son — Poncho Sanchez’s sincere tribute with “Giant Steps,” bassist Marcus Miller’s spiritual depth in his composition “Gorée,” Snarky Puppy’s heady experimentation and the NC Coltrane All Stars’ celebratory rendition of “Body and Soul.”
65. RiverRun/Phuzz Phest
The two festivals have been running concurrently in the month of April in Winston-Salem for five years now. While Phuzz celebrates the local sound in the clubs around town, RiverRun lends weight to the city’s reputation for the arts in the more highbrow theaters and gathering spaces. The weekend when they converge is the most exciting in the city.
66. US Figure Skating Nationals
For eight days in January, the best American skaters convened in Greensboro. Winners included Jason Brown, men’s singles, and Ashley Wagner, women’s singles.
67. National Black Theatre Festival
The National Black Theatre Festival comes to Winston-Salem every two years, with dozens of performances and artists ranging from seasoned pros to experimental scenes. In August, the city gave off the vibe of the Harlem Renaissance.
68. USA Olympics Gymnastics Championships
Over six days in June, elite US athletes, many of them bound for the Olympics next year, competed at the Greensboro Coliseum.
69. National Folk Festival
For a glorious weekend in September, the north end of downtown Greensboro played host to the International Folk Festival, the first in a three-year booking. Behind headliner Mavis Staples, scores of acts graced a half-dozen stages with highlight performances from Rhiannon Giddens (See No. 1), New Orleans piano professor Henry Butler, bluesman Marquise Knox and more.
70. Trans rights
The high profile enjoyed by “Orange Is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox — who visited Wake Forest University in October — and Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition lifted trans rights to new prominence across the country in 2015. NC Trans Pride held its second annual statewide trans gathering at Caldcleugh Multicultural Arts Center in Greensboro in September. And in November, members of the trans community and supporters protested Greene Street Club in Greensboro after Jonathan Green, a young, gender-nonconforming person, was ejected from the club after attempting to use the women’s bathroom.
71. Participatory budgeting
The city of Greensboro implemented participatory budgeting in 2015, following a split vote by city council the previous October to adopt the program. Some of the ideas put forward during public-input meetings to determine how to spend $100,000 in each of the city’s five city council districts include embedding light reflectors along bike lanes and installing stone chess tables in neighborhood parks. Residents will get to vote on how to spend the money in May 2016, around the same time city council finalizes the budget.
72. Winston-Salem bond projects
In 2015, Winston-Salem residents began to see the results of $139.2 million bond that was approved in November 2014. In late August, City Manager Lee Garrity announced an aggressive schedule to begin spending funds on police district stations, a sprayground, lazy river and observation deck at local parks, and sidewalk and greenway construction in outlying areas of the city, complementing the city’s impressive downtown renaissance.
73. Immigrant ID
Greensboro stood out as progressive beacon in a state that has taken a hard turn to the right in the past five years in two respects (see Item No. 86). In September, faith leaders joined Greensboro and Burlington police officials in a press conference called by FaithAction International to support the use of immigrant IDs. Rep. Debra Conrad, a Winston-Salem Republican, was among the cosponsors of a bill with the Orwellian title the Protect North Carolina Act that made it illegal for municipalities to recognize the IDs. The following month, in what must either be considered a monumental act of vindictiveness or naked pandering to his conservative base, Gov. Pat McCrory came to Greensboro to sign the bill into law.
74. Sex trafficking
Anna Malika, a young woman in Greensboro who survived sex trafficking, has become an advocate for women who have been victimized by educating law-enforcement officers and advocating for legislative reform. She told her story to TCB intern Sayaka Matsuoka in June. Rachel Parker, the anti-sex-trafficking program manager at World Relief High Point, said that large events like the High Point Furniture Market and the ACC men’s basketball tournament tend to drive spikes in sex trafficking because of a temporary boom in the population.
TCB got a handle on the epidemic of opiate addiction, centered on the supply point of High Point but affecting people across the Triad, in 2015. The epidemic has accelerated through the over-prescription of pain pills and subsequent crackdown, leading many addicts to switch to heroin. We published a story in January about four women who struggled with heroin addiction, and followed up in September with a story about Jen McCormack, a friend of Senior Editor Jordan Green, who died after undergoing a heart attack in the Forsyth County jail while awaiting trial on prescription drug fraud charges. While the circumstances of McCormack’s death remain unclear, the story brought to light that many local jails across North Carolina do not guarantee medication-assisted therapy, which is considered the standard of care and particularly critical to the health of pregnant women.
Winston-Salem City Council approved a new ordinance regulating busking in April, but the issue was largely driven by two amateur musicians working the late-night bar crowds on West Fourth Street while pushing well-to-do residents of the Nissen Building to the brink of madness. Since the ordinance was passed, the city hasn’t seen much busking, but outdoor music is alive and well, thanks to outdoor stages at Artivity on the Green and Bailey Park, and street parties hosted by Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
77. Liquor house parties
High Point police put a handful of liquor-house operators in the impoverished east-central core of the city on notice in 2015 that they would be watching, responding to escalating complaints from neighbors about gunfire, loud music and cars impeding passage of emergency vehicles. The police arrested various guests traveling to and from the parties, but had difficulty finding anything to charge the operators with, and to date the city has yet to take legal action to shut the parties down.
78. The barcade
We’ve been lobbying in the pages of TCB for a barcade — an arcade for grownups with video games, pinball and table sports — almost since the beginning, but in 2015 one opened in downtown Winston-Salem in the form of a barbecue joint. Camel City BBQ Factory came online in the spring, and devoted its top floor to the enterprise.
79. Aggie football
The NC A&T University Aggies finished out the season at 9-2, and beat Alcorn State in the Georgia Dome to win the HBCU National Championship at the Celebration Bowl in December. As always, they drew a crowd during the school’s massive homecoming weekend in October.
It would be hard for any community to avoid talk of guns in 2015, a year that saw dozens of mass shootings in this country, some of which made the news. A TCB cover story in October explored suicide by gun. The General Assembly passed new gun legislation in June, an omnibus bill that legalized silencers, took the database of gun owners and concealed-carry permit holders off the public record and allowed people to bring their guns to funerals, parks and places that sell alcohol. Feel safer?
Greensboro’s signature fabric had something of a comeback year, as a pop-up museum documenting the city’s history with blue jeans and overalls went on display at the Depot during the National Folk Festival and a commitment by Wrangler to market the city as Jeansboro. Boutiques like Hudson Hill in Greensboro and Centennial Trading in Winston-Salem also sated the public’s appetite for apparel made from small-batch materials.
82. School vouchers
In July, the state Supreme Court upheld a law allowing children to use public dollars to attend private schools. This school year, High Point schools took in 167 vouchers up to $4,200 while Winston-Salem issued 190. Greensboro private schools benefited the most, with 217 students attending school on vouchers, 123 of them at the Greensboro Islamic Academy, second in the state behind Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville.
83. Rural-urban divide
At some point, the old political saying goes, you gotta dance with the people who brung ya. And because the Republican majority in the General Assembly came into power largely on votes from outside our cities, which are fairly uniformly blue, payback came in the form of a plan to redistribute sales-tax revenue from the places it was collected — cities — to rural counties with little business infrastructure. This left urban Republicans like Rep. John Blust in a quandary over a party line that adversely affected their districts.
84. Food insecurity
This is the year that the Greensboro/High Point metro area earned the infamous distinction as the region with the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, a designation only slightly worse than where the two cities previously sat. In some regards, the title served as a wake-up call to elected officials and civically minded residents, who jumped into motion. The cities are in the process of implementing new programs, carrying out studies and brainstorming new tactics to address the deep-seated problem.
85. Stolen wine
Remember that super expensive wine stolen from renowned California restaurant the French Laundry that was somehow recovered in Greensboro at the start of the year despite no arrests in the case? Well almost 12 months later, the public still has no clue how the wine ended up in the Triad, and there’s nothing new to report. Will this go down as a permanently unsolved mystery in the city’s history?
86. Syrian refugees
Nobody seemed upset that Syrian refugees were arriving in the Triad in the early part of this year — on the contrary, people openly welcomed them. But after an illogical pandemonium about the vetting process for refugees after terrorist attacks in Paris, despite no real link to refugees except that they are fleeing the same form of terror, a backlash built. Church World Services in Greensboro received a threat and local Congressman Mark Walker backed a pause on admitting Syrian refugees. Hundreds of people in Greensboro pushed back late this fall at a community Thanksgiving event aimed at celebrating immigrants and refugees. Winston-Salem journalist and Wake Forest professor Phoebe Zerwick documented the welcoming attitude in a piece for the Nation, and Zerwick previously profiled a local Syrian refugee family for National Geographic.
Artistically, 2015 appears to be the year of the mural. From the long wall at Artivity on the Green and Laura Lashley’s work at Bailey Park in Winston-Salem to pieces by the Art of Chase, Kendall Doub and Elsewherians in Greensboro, this has been a big year for murals in the Triad. And that’s not including action on Washington Street in High Point, the controversial Duck Head paint-over at Eric Robert’s mill, and progress by the East Winston Art-Up.
88. Greensboro’s brand
The Gate City can’t quite put its finger on the best way to market itself. A summer ad campaign by the city, Action Greensboro and the convention and visitors bureau produced intangible results at best and a failed website to boot. But efforts at earned media coverage by RLF Communications, funded by Action Greensboro, landed the city on the “Today” show in December. It also includes a marketing effort that highlights millennials.
89. Fast-food workers
Low-wage foodservice workers continued organizing in the Triad this year, namely in Greensboro, where they held a protest action inside a Wendy’s after a fast-food workers’ union leader was allegedly fired for her activity. Workers also went on strike again, as they have a few times in recent years, fighting for a $15 minimum wage and union recognition alongside groups like NC Raise Up.
90. Council structure
In September, the Greensboro City Council adopted a committee structure that mimics that of Winston-Salem, with four council sub-committees designed to improve the efficiency of city council’s decision-making process. Thus far it appears to be working as planned.
91. Election referendum
In the hubbub about a potentially massive shift in the election and structure of Greensboro City Council, many people forgot that the council opted to put a referendum item on the November ballot. Voters approved a measure doubling the length of city council terms from two years to four (also bringing it in line with Winston-Salem) beginning in 2017.
From its launch in 2013, Amplifier magazine planted a flag for the Greensboro music scene while also highlighting worthy local businesses and displaying an elegant sense of style. The ambitious ’zine made a semi-successful expansion as a statewide publication. But the monetary losses and endless hours of work became a little too much for publisher Jen Hasty. The ’zine hosted a rousing concert finale at New York Pizza in December for the last print issue, although Amplifier will continue as a digital-only entity.
93. Raving Knaves
Middle-aged modern rockers the Raving Knaves played their last gig this year after a solid run of Triad gigs. “I’ve decided that the only way you can honestly judge any such off-the-grid band is by the satisfaction of its members,” frontman Dave McLean wrote for TCB in October. “And Adrian Foltz, Danny Bayer and I played wild, tight, original music for seven years together, contributing equally through a creative friendship and respect. Rehearsals were just as fun as public gigs and when even one person was moved to dance wildly, it felt like an offering to the universe.”
94. High Point University basketball
After a solid season, the HPU Panthers men’s squad entered the Big South tournament with a conference record of 13-5 and a No. 2 seed, though they got knocked out in their first game against Gardner-Webb. But the women, a 3-seed with a 14-6 conference record, rode the tournament all the way to the finals, where they lost to Liberty University 74-64.
95. Say Yes to Education
Half of the money to fund the endowment — $70 million — had already been raised by the time Say Yes Guilford launched in September. The organization challenges qualifying communities to pay last-dollar expenses for every public high school graduate in the district who wants to go to college. The money should start flowing for the Class of 2016.
96. Notre Dame wins the ACC
It wasn’t supposed to end like this, not at the last ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro for the foreseeable future. But the Fighting Irish swept in and topped UNC, embittering even a few Duke fans on the process. The tournament is leaving the state where it was born next year, when it will be held at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC before moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn through 2018. It comes back to Greensboro in 2020.
Greensboro’s downtown arts collective turned its eye outward this year, with a series of projects that redefined the South Elm neighborhood around it. A mile-long hopscotch grid, a secret garden, wall murals and a public outdoor lunch spot were elements of the South Elm Projects, which proposed new urbanism with artistic flair.
98. Greensboro Police Department
A new police chief. A national spotlight. A reformed review process. A temporary order. A secretive emergency unit and a pricey crowd-control device. This year has been full of developments for the Greensboro Police Department, earning it leagues more ink than any other city department, in this publication and others.
99. Carolina Panthers
How about those Panthers? Some credit quarterback Cam Newton with introducing the American public to “the dab” this year, but Newton’s bigger contribution is his unprecedented season with the Carolina Panthers. After Sunday’s loss against the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers still finished 2015 with the best record in the NFL.
100. International Civil Rights Center & Museum
The civil rights museum primarily preserving the history of the Greensboro sit-ins and the national civil-rights struggle is fighting it out behind closed doors with the Greensboro News & Record over the daily newspaper’s coverage of the institution. The contentions led to a lawsuit briefly being filed and then voluntarily dismissed, though it may return, the museum’s lawyer said. The museum also received the final $250,000 installment of a loan from the city. The subject became a campaign issue in this year’s city council election, though everyone on council sailed to re-election.
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