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Tue December 10, 2013
Ignite High Point: City Re-Invents Itself
The City of High Point is in the process of re-inventing itself.
High Point has built its reputation on furniture: manufacturing furniture, marketing furniture -- pretty much anything to do with furniture. It has thereby earned its title as "Furniture Capital of the World." Twice a year, tens of thousands of people in the furniture industry converge on High Point for the Furniture Market, an event which has a major economic impact on the region.
After the release of a Duke University study on the economic impact of the twice-yearly event, the High Point Market released a statement, saying in part, "In broad strokes, the Market contributes $5.4 billion in economic impact to the overall regional economy, over 37,000 jobs and $198 million in North Carolina local and state taxes and fees. To put this figure in perspective, the total output of $5.4 billion is approximately equivalent to 1.3% of the total gross state product (GSP) of North Carolina."
Not long ago, a group of businesspeople and interested citizens decided that High Pointed needed revitalization. They created a group called Ignite High Point, and hired the planning firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk. Project Board Chairman Richard Wood says then, a series of intense planning sessions, called charettes, was held -- and sparked a good deal of interest.
"We had a packed theater at High Point University on the first night kick-off of the charettes," Wood explains, "then we had 11 charettes planned during that week, but there were more held, several impromptu at restaurants and bars, as Duany and his crowd made their way around town."
One goal is to attract sharp young entrepreneurs to make High Point their homes and centers of operation, and provide popular gathering places for college students and recent graduates -- particularly considering the phenomenal growth of High Point University over the past decade. Richard Wood says, "You know, we want them to come to High Point and have a pleasant experience, to be able to find a place to eat and enjoy themselves, to sit on the sidewalk and have a glass of wine in the afternoon or find some different stores in which to shop. So yeah, we would want to make the experience of those folks visiting High Point much more pleasant. Same with the furniture people."
The plans are ambitious: gathering places, a public green, library square, a children's museum and center, an amphitheater, and a good deal more. But the first step, Wood says, is to do something they call "dieting" part of Main Street.
"I think the average rate of speed down our Main Street is something like 47 miles an hour. It's hard to see a business when you're going that fast And it's four lanes-- two lanes either way and a center turn lane. We'd like to narrow it down to one lane going each way and a center lane with a rumble strip. And, perhaps, in our wildest dreams, it might accommodate a trolley train. We know the cost is exorbitant, but you gotta have dreams."
The master plan is finished and is available by clicking here.