November 01, 2012Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins faced criticism from residents during his east Greensboro mayor's summit on Monday, Oct. 29 in the Dudley High School auditorium.
The meeting was spurred by requests from Citizens for Environmental and Economic Justice (CEEJ) and Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro that the city pay more attention to economic development in east Greensboro.
A PowerPoint presentation by Perkins was followed by a question-and-answer period that some took as an opportunity for their own speeches, some of which were sharply critical of the council and Perkins.
Perkins emphasized the importance of growing Greensboro as a whole.
"We're going to have job success in east Greensboro, but we're going to need to have jobs created all over Greensboro," Perkins said. "Where you're from in this city is not dependent on where you work."
Perkins didn't stick to east Greensboro in his remarks. He said that the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) is the center of job growth for the region, and discussed plans for improving transportation to and from the airport, including the construction of I-73.
Perkins also did not shy away from discussing his ambitions for downtown, particularly the proposed Greensboro performing arts center (GPAC), which has drawn criticism from many in the community, including CEEJ.
"Downtown is the heart and soul of our community, it is a place where we all come together to work and play," Perkins said. He also touted Center City Park and Greenway at Fisher Park apartments.
District 2 resident Gayland Oliver said that he didn't recall hearing about the proposed arts center when Perkins was campaigning for mayor in 2011 and questioned his commitment to District 2.
"It seems like you could take that $40 million and put it towards economic development in District 2," Oliver said, referring to the portion of the cost of the PAC that is supposed to be covered by city funds.
Perkins responded that he represented all the districts of Greensboro and said that the GPAC would contribute to an active downtown that would attract development and jobs to benefit all of Greensboro.
According to Perkins, the main economic generators for east Greensboro are the Gateway University Research Park and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.
Perkins' plan to extend Florida Street to connect Lee Street and McConnell Road was not popular.
Louis Brandon criticized the plan to run the street through the A&T farm. "That is a working farm, a teaching farm, and it deserves the same representation as the nanoscience center. If you run a street from Florida Street to McConnell Road, that is a dead end," said Brandon.
Perkins said he recognized that the farm is an economic engine, and that the decision would be made in cooperation A&T. "We'll let A&T and Chancellor Martin make that decision," Perkins said.
Brandon said he and the community would "fight" Perkins to stop the connector.
Former Greensboro City Councilmember and Chair of CEEJ Goldie Wells used the question-and-answer period to make a speech of her own behalf of CEEJ. Her impassioned speech included complaints that east Greensboro was lagging behind the rest of Greensboro to the point that it needed assistance from the city.
"We are asking for more because we are so far behind. We've been told to wait so many times," she said, responding to comments by Councilmember Trudy Wade in The Rhino Times that east Greensboro had been getting funding and that other areas needed assistance as well.
"That is leadership," Perkins said after Wells finished her litany of complaints and suggestions.
After Perkins answered questions, Michael Tabb of Red Rock Global presented information from the parity study, "Balanced Economic Development: A Strategic Plan for East Greensboro," which the city paid him $90,000 to conduct.
Tabb claimed that his work shows significant demand for retail stores in east Greensboro, and that research showing low potential for successful stores in the area failed to take into account all the money being spent in east Greensboro because it focused on household income and ignored money brought in by unreported side jobs and temporary residents like students.
However, the parity study contains numerous glaring errors, including huge errors in the size of shopping centers and the inclusion of a shopping center on West Market Street in the east Greensboro area.
The study lists Palmer Plaza as over 600,000 square feet. The owner of the property, William Kotis of Kotis Properties, said it is 80,000 square feet.
The study also lists Market Street Plaza at 3932 West Market St. as an east Greensboro shopping center, even though it is in west Greensboro.
The study is plagued by more minor errors as well. In the executive summary, "E. Lee Street" is said to have a daytime population of 57,175.
Kotis spoke during the question-and-answer period and said that there were several errors within the study that he thought understated the demand for retail in east Greensboro, but did not go into detail.
The meeting began with a brief speech by City Councilmember Jim Kee on economic development projects in east Greensboro. He included discussion of the South Elm Development, which he said may break ground in the summer of 2013.
Kee also talked about revitalizing the Bessemer Shopping Center, which the city owns.