Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"And They're Getting More Organized All The Time."

So said one of Greensboro's prominent real estate developers recently, in a conversation about neighborhood groups, and he wasn't happy when he said it.

Free, new media have empowered neighborhood groups tremendously. A decade ago, anyone wanting to oppose a rezoning or a development had to go door to door or make scores of phone calls to get people to meetings. Time and distance greatly constrained what people could accomplish.

But now an increasing number of neighborhood groups are using tools like Yahoo or Google groups, which allow e-mail messages to go out instantly to group members -- and only to group members -- so quickly that neighborhoods are now as agile as their industry opponents. Neighborhoods are also using free blogs to give them a public face and to archive public documents.

I think this new "Army of Davids" power is very apparent in Greensboro, where developers have lost recent rezoning battles (or given up before they started) in response to neighborhood pressure. It looks like they're going to lose a few more.

The Fairview-Rosecrest-Kirkwood neighborhood group has recently conjured itself into existence and is starting a public campaign to oppose a commercial rezoning in their neighborhood. They've been quietly organizing via e-mail for the past couple of weeks.

And Citizens for Haw River State Park recently won an important ally in opposing the Patriot's Landing development, after months of behind-the-scenes organizing facilitated by an e-mail listserv and website.

In both cases, the developers have asked for continuances, hoping to wait out the "Davids" and strike when their fervor is cooled. But now that the citizen groups have their electronic networks in place, it will be easy to rally the troops again when they're needed.

This is very irritating to developers, but in the long run I think it will hold them to a higher standard, which is good for everybody.


Anonymous said...

I live on Lawndale. I am directly affected by this proposed new development. Most of the people who are against it, are purely hypocritical. Do they shop at any place on Wendover Avenue? Buy groceries in the Harris Teeter up the street? I do. I would love to not have to drive down two lane over-congested Cornwallis to CVS. I could walk to the "corner store" for a drug store item. Competition is good for business, and good for the local buyer. I would like to see all the sidewalks return, but my intent is to speak again with the developer's representative, and not just sign a bunch of petitions for what will happen eventually. After the dumpy, non-historic rental houses are razed, my property value will probably go up. Not to mention the fact that that Walgreen's will donate a piece of its revenues to local medical programs for those in need, as per their company's policies. I would bet that not a single soul that is against the Walgreen's gives one damn dime to make sure the local poor have, at least, some medical care. That's a little extra burden off our county's budget. Remember those property taxes? When the Presbyterian church down the street bought up the lowly little houses on Lawndale and tore them down, I was thrilled. You know that looks much better. I am appaled that they are against someone else doing what they did. At least Walgreen's pays property taxes. Now, to be fair, maybe they could make the facade a bit more "historic-looking", and the condos, too. I am willing to work with these people to give them the chance to upgrade their renderings, and thereby the final product, instead of just casting a stone against them. This could turn out to be a positive experience for the whole neighborhood with a little help from a few who are not so closed-minded. Well, that would assume that current neighbors work together with potential new neighbors. As the drawings stand, I think it looks better than the crappy little houses that are there now. We're not a historic district, and this is simply business. I shop in places that were once farmland. I fly out of our airport that used to stand, in part, on a dairy. So does everyone else involved. And big ole' Walgreen's used to be a little family business just like Mr. Porter's. How "Greensboro" can you get, neighbor?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "anonymous" isn't aware there are three stores with pharmacies within a couple minutes walking distance of the Lawndale/Cornwallis corner: Kerr Drugs, Target, and Harris Teeter.

And we hear there'll be a new Walgreens at Elm and Cornwallis where Roy's Citgo is now. So CVS and Walgreens will be an easy three minutes drive away. This neighborhood is far from underserved.

Walgreens moving into a commercial area is fine. Taking over a residential neighorhood is not.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I don't think a new commercial structure in a residential or mostly-residential neighborhood NEED be a "take over." THIS Walgreen's plan would be, because the design is so bad, because it is not designed in harmony with any aspect of a walkable residential neighborhood. It is a suburban strip-mall-island retail design with some suburban-sprawl townhouses carlessly stuck in at the edge. Also, it's not only "historic" neighborhoods that deserve respect and care in their design. All neighborhoods do.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant "carElessly." It certainly isn't "carless," ha ha. I wish I knew how to edit comments for typos.

Anonymous said...

Power to the people!

At least we are getting close to a level playing field.

These developers trot out traffic and other impact studies that justify their means.

The Citizens cannot come up with this kind of mind to justify their means.

Now we can get our side of the story across.

How many Walgreens do we need??

Anonymous said...

Oops, "mind", I meant money.....