Monday, June 6, 2016

If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 11

This is part of an ongoing series of posts that begins with If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro and is linked in succession back to here. If you haven't already I recommend you read them all before continuing.

In my post Was Billy Yow Right All Along? I promised to explain to readers how to "make downtown Greensboro and the rest of Greensboro a success for many decades to come." In this post I will explain to you what our problems are.

And seriously folks, if you think solving them can be painless you are horribly mistaken. The Greensboro Disease has long infected us but it has never been what the status-quo would have you believe it is.

The answer lies in the 2010 Action Greensboro funded, Moser, Mayer, Pheonix Associates, Greensboro Downtown Economic Development Strategy which stated:

"Despite demand retail growth has been slow Despite the fact that downtown is attracting significant spending from visitors and a growing residential base, businesses have trouble staying open. Assuming an industry standard of 10% rent‐to‐sales ratio for successful retail, a business would need to generate $420,000 in annual sales in a typical downtown space of 3,000 SF with $14/SF rent. Local market data suggests that retailers in downtown Greensboro are achieving a lower sales volume, and spending closer to 25% of sales on rent. High start‐up costs compound already tight operating margins and impede the success of many storefront retail businesses. Downtown’s retail is currently approximately 15% vacant along Elm St, and anecdotal evidence suggests that many businesses do not survive the first year of operation.

Poor building conditions are the greatest economic barrier to the success of new retail. Many buildings in Greensboro were constructed in the early/mid‐1900s and are in need of major renovations. The cost of rehabilitating ground floor spaces and creating a “vanilla box” for retail use will range from $40‐$80 per square foot depending on the building’s condition and original design. This either drives rents higher or creates an extra upfront burden for the tenant. Many buildings have likely remained vacant because owners are unwilling to undertake the upgrade cost on a speculative basis."

And this one:

“Retail rents cannot fully support the cost of rehabilitating blighted buildings… Absent financial intervention, storefronts will remain vacant or will attract tenants of marginal quality and with a high probability of failure.”
I first pointed this out back on Friday, February 8, 2013 so Action Greensboro reacted by removing the Moser, Mayer, Pheonix Associates, Greensboro Downtown Economic Development Strategy from the Internet.  As you can see both the Greensboro Partnership and UNCG have copies of the same study posted online but both copies are missing the Executive Summary. The UNCG copy even has the words "Executive Summary To Be Inserted" on the last page but no where is the Executive Summary or the full report to be found.

Even Downtown Greensboro Inc has a direct quote from the missing page of the study on their website:

Sad isn't it? They all know what the problem is but none are willing to admit it.

And therein lies the problem: There is simply not enough money to be spent in Downtown Greensboro to support small businesses who must rent the buildings they do business in. There never has been.

And yet, in order to maintain a higher tax base, the Greensboro City Council subsidizes the owners of these buildings as one small business after the other folds. And it's not just downtown. If you are paying rent your business is not sustainable in Greensboro's economy.Never has been, never will be.

Downtown Greensboro was first built by shopkeepers who owned the buildings they did business in. For well over 100 years Downtown remained a success. Then as second and third generation family businesses lost interest in their family businesses and decided they would rather become landlords than actually work for a living, downtown Greensboro, like downtowns everywhere, began to fail.

This is the true story of dying downtowns-- the story those who control our cities like Greensboro don't want you to learn.

Having spent their lives sitting on their asses and with no real skills with which to earn a living or the desire to actually work these entitled adult children cried out, "Save our downtowns!" and as they were best able to pad the pockets of those who would run for political office they got passed bills and resolutions at the Federal, State and local levels to subsidize their rental businesses through something we like to call Downtown Renovation.

Say you've been here 10 to 15 years and you remember when downtown was a ghost town? So what?

I grew up here in Greensboro and am currently witnessing the 4th round of Downtown Greensboro Renovation since 1956. I've seen it become a ghost town 4 times now.  In other words, downtown renovation, as we know it, is not sustainable and does not work over the long term.

But downtown renovation could be made to work. City wide renovation could be made to work. All we need are a few simple changes in how we go about doing it and who gets our help. And it could return a profit to the City of Greensboro.

So how do I propose we do that? For the answer you must read If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 12.

And folks, even if you don't believe I'm the right man to be the next Mayor of Greensboro you know my ideas are dead on so why not share them with everyone you know so that all of Greensboro will know what they must expect from the next Mayor of Greensboro.