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The other building is the old Cascade Saloon building between the railroad tracks on South Elm Street. This building is owned by the family of Ross Strange, who is an attorney, and so far through legal maneuvering and good fortune he has managed to keep this building from being torn down. The city is determined to tear down the building and this ordinance will give them even more clout. The problem is that it is a historic building and nothing can be rebuilt on that site if it is torn down because it is between the railroad tracks and reportedly doesn't meet the setbacks on either side. The city has been threatening to tear it down for years, but this is a case where if the city wanted to spend a little economic development money it could buy the building and sell it to someone who will renovate it. The city would not make money on the building, but when has the city ever made money on property? The city bought the Coliseum Inn and has done nothing with the property. The city bought the Canada Dry building for far more than its appraised value, but the wife of the News & Record editor owned a big portion of it, so the city councilmembers didn't consider it a total loss. They thought they were buying good will, or better said good press, with taxpayer dollars.
The city bought the old YWCA at above asking price because Perkins wanted the land for the Greensboro
Performing Arts Center. Greensboro
has plenty of money, and it would make far more sense to go ahead and buy the Cascade building than to punish every downtown property owner with these oppressive new regulations or to tear down a historic building on property where nothing could be built.
Also the city staff doesn't seem to be aware of the current economic situation, although Perkins, whose home is being foreclosed on and who ran up a tremendous debt to the Internal Revenue Service, should understand. In this economy some buildings have cracked windows and peeling paint, not because the owners are deadbeats or don't care about their buildings, but because they are short of cash. Being fined by the city is not going to help get the building repaired or help the owner pay for fixing up the building.
Because of the drop in real estate values many property owners are upside down on their buildings, meaning they owe more than the current value, so selling is really not an option. In other words, a lot of small businesses are just struggling to keep their doors open, and their buildings don't look as good as they might because they don't have any spare cash lying around to fix them up.
But if it is a good idea to have property owners fix every cracked window and have everything freshly painted, why is this ordinance only for the downtown. If Perkins thinks this ordinance is such a good idea for property values, it seems only fair that the strip shopping centers and buildings that he owns all over the city should have to comply, as well as every other building in the city.
Why should only the downtown benefit from this helpful ordinance?
This City Council, in part because of a lack of business experience on the council, is on the path to turn downtown Greensboro
back into the ghost town it was 20 years ago. At The Rhino our sales people used to park out in front of the building on a regular basis because they don't stay in the office long and The Rhino Times parking lot on two one-way streets is ridiculously hard to get to from the west. But nobody from our office parks on the street anymore, even to run in the office for a minute, because the parking police are much more diligent and tickets are $15. It makes doing business downtown really difficult. If your business is anywhere else in the city you don't have to worry about parking tickets, but downtown you do. I talk to people all the time who do not want to come downtown because they don't want to get another ticket. A $15 ticket is not just a real deterrent for improper parking, it is a deterrent for coming downtown. When I started The Rhino 21 years ago, a parking ticket was $3. Now it has increased by 500 percent. Even gas hasn't gone up 500 percent.
Finally, this ordinance is simply part of the Downtown Design & Compatibility Manual that the city tried to force on downtown property owners a couple of years ago. The design manual would have codified in law the aesthetic tastes of the city planning department. A number of downtown property owners got together, hired attorney Henry Isaacson to represent us and defeated the manual. Now the planning department, with the support of a new mayor, is trying to bring back the design manual one piece at a time. If this passes there is no telling what part of the design manual will be dredged up next by the staff at the bequest of Perkins or some councilmember. The staff is only too happy to put regulation on top of regulation. The only protection property owners have is the City Council, and in this case it may turn out to be no protection at all.