Let’s Be Courageous and Revitalize Downtown

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I would like to thank the High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau board and community liaisons who attended our Annual Retreat last week at High Point University. These leaders are engaged and charged with moving the needle forward in High Point. Most of all, they understand that to make our city vibrant, we need to start making it a year-round destination.

We were inspired by Dr. Nido Qubein who opened the retreat with a message to have faithful courage in transformation. When I digested his message, I could not help but reflect on another message I heard at last year’s board retreat from former Downtown Durham leader, Bill Khalkoff. He encouraged us to have political courage, which was key to a successful downtown Durham transformation 20 years ago.  It will take courage to change the minds of High Pointers who are comfortable with the way things are now. It will take courage to create strategies, form partnerships, garner resources, and plan for transformation.

I am going to be courageous and communicate something that may be difficult to hear. When some visitors come to our city, they are so confused that they actually ask if we are a “temporary city.” They can’t believe that citizens, businesses, schools, and government even exist outside of Furniture Market. I’m 100 percent supportive of Furniture Market and I understand its value, its scope, and its impact on High Point.  However,what I find intriguing is that the term “temporary city” is commonly used among urban planners to illustrate how cities implement “pop up” events and businesses. I’m not sure that High Point’s visitors use the phrase “temporary city” in the context that urban planners intended. Therefore, I’m not sure to take this as a compliment of High Point. Is High Point the “pop-up” to North Carolina’s largest tradeshow? I don’t think that we intend for it to be this way, but some outsiders perceive it to be so.

I have heard some say High Point is a destination city. Yes, a destination to attend Market or to visit High Point University, but we certainly are not reaping the benefits of a destination city. Our neighboring cities see the economic impact of High Point visitors staying in their hotels, eating in their restaurants, and shopping in their retail establishments. We must narrow the gap of lost revenues by creating a desirable, memorable, positive experience within our city limits. A vibrant downtown can activate the visitor experience not to mention enhance the offerings for our local residents, too. What if we could energize a block or two of downtown that can be used during Market and the other 50 weeks out of the year?

Dr. Kathrine Loflin, author of Place Match – The City Doctor’s Guide to Finding Where You Belong, reflected on three attributes that makes cities successful at our recent board retreat: 1) Social Offerings 2) Aesthetics and 3)Openness . After Dr. Loflin’s presentation, High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau board members and community leaders discussed these three points in depth and reflected on infusing these attributes in a one-to-two block area of downtown. I have attended numerous community workshops in the last month with people I know and some I have never met.  During all of these meetings, we discussed many facets of change in the core city and the underlying message from all that was vocal was clear: Just do it, already. It’s been eight years and counting since we  had the first organized effort to revitalize High Point’s core city. We have the talent and resources to accomplish it. Let’s all come together and be courageous, stop talking, and do something now!

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