In the last decade and a half, council has farmed out the vision thing to other groups (like Action Greensboro) and then sometimes supported them by encouraging them to spend their own money, or putting something on a bond (hope it passes -- fingers crossed!). I don't recall hearing a clearly articulated vision of downtown coming from any council member...
...Instead, they beat up on Ed Wolverton.
Read the whole thing after the jump.
I think Mr. Braswell has a point. Did the city council give DGI "vision building" as part of its charge? In a fractious place like downtown Greensboro, that's a tall order, and one that requires commitment of serious resources.
In the last decade and a half, council has farmed out the vision thing to other groups (like Action Greensboro) and then sometimes supported them by encouraging them to spend their own money, or putting something on a bond (hope it passes -- fingers crossed!). I don't recall hearing a clearly articulated vision of downtown coming from any council member, apart from Mr. Perkins' recent support of a downtown PAC. But wanting a PAC is not a vision of downtown ... I'm hoping there's something more there than just Triangle me-too-ism.
I spent some time working with the first group that tried to develop downtown design guidelines -- there was some vision there, at least. Council's input on that project was to allow the process (and the vision) to be hijacked by a suburban real estate developer whose big downtown project all these years later is still half-empty (or half-full, if you're an optimist). Also, council has so far declined to appoint any members to the downtown design advisory committee, making the whole thing worse than useless. (A recent review by consultants recommended repealing the mess, and council didn't bother to do that, either.)
Other cities have handled things differently. Greenville's mayor, Knox White, has been driving a vision of downtown since 1995. A conservative Republican, he has not only succeeded in making Greenville the standard for mid-sized city turnarounds in the Southeast, he has kept taxes low. He has found creative ways to fund projects, and he is famously knowledgeable about the details of city planning, even down to nit-picking the width of "curb lawns" between the sidewalk and street. When Action Greensboro visited there some years ago, he gave city leaders a lot of very specific advice about what kinds of projects to pursue and how to site them, the importance of leveraging historic preservation, etc. Can't think of any of it that has been implemented here.
Chattanooga, another famously successful southeastern downtown, had a long-serving, visionary city planner in charge of downtown development, and he not only brought in a lot of great projects, political leaders let him exercise veto power over inappropriate development.
But there is no Knox White on our council, and council is not willing to empower some other authority to execute a coherent vision in the teeth of pressure from entrenched real estate interests.
Instead, they beat up on Ed Wolverton. It could be that there has been a lot of back-channel communications between the council and DGI that I don't know about, but to me it looks like grandstanding.