I just got an anonymous comment in response to my last post that just blew me away. I'm putting it here as its own post, in the hope that someone in Greensboro's development community is listening:
What the people in Greensboro need to understand is that there's another decamping going on. And it's not those who don't care enough about their street as a public realm who then run for the economic segregation of contemporary subdivision living.I'm reminded of an anecdote I heard from an urban planner here in Greensboro. A Greensboro developer had been invited to tour the Vermillion development near Charlotte, which is a beautiful example of the kind of neighbhorood my anonymous commenter is attracted to. After the tour, the developer said, "It's beautiful. But you can't do it in Greensboro."
It's people like my wife and I- young, well-educated people with high earning potential who went to school in the Triad. We like living in moderately dense environments (3500-6000 people per sq mile) because we love to walk and spend our money locally rather than in big corporate boxes. We're decamping for cities and regions that have walkable, mixed-use communities.
Living in Carrboro, we walk to the grocery store, to dinner, and the movies on a regular basis, in all 4 seasons. We see people out and about on the streets, and stop to say hello. Combined, we drive less than 10,000 miles a year. There's an elementary school in our neighborhood that has sidewalks and bikepaths connecting it easily to our home, and we think it will be an excellent place to raise children.
When we came here 2 years ago, the plan was to move back to the Triad at the first opportunity. Now that we're here, and know what we'd be missing, it's doubtful we'd return. Strangely enough, it's not the schools, or housing prices, or the job market- it mostly has to do with enjoying the traditional town urban form here that affords us our current lifestyle.
Keith Holliday should repeat these words to himself everytime the City Council turns down a permit for denser infill development: "We're young. We're educated. We want to live in a real neighborhood. We're gone." Quietly, one young person at a time- that's what happens as Greensboro continues to sprawl.
Actually, I think there's a huge pent-up market for this kind of thing in Greensboro. But apparently, no one in the development community here has either the will or the know-how to do it. That's why Nate Bowman (who built Vermillion) came here and built Southside for us.
It's not that no one in Greensboro is trying to attract and keep people like the commenter whom I've quoted -- Action Greensboro has been working very hard to do just that. But their effort, in order to be successful, must move beyond the realm of the philanthropic foundations and their volunteers (whose efforts I sincerely salute). Developers and bankers must learn how to finance and build (and in many cases, re-built) communities that are attractive to the next generation of workers. And I think it's safe to say that that generation is not looking to move into sidewalkless generic outlying developments of cul-de-sacs and snout-houses.
As a start, might I suggest attending today's public lecture about smart growth at the Greensboro Historical Museum (4-5 p.m.)?