Sunday, December 18, 2016

Remember: In the Beginning I Was In Favor Of GPAC

Most people think Billy Jones has always been against the Greensboro Performing Arts Center but that simply isn't true. In the beginning I was in favor of building a Greensboro Performing Arts Center. I just thought Greensboro's leaders had chosen the wrong spot in which to place such an investment.

 They claimed GPAC was about economic development so I said, fine, put it in the part of town that most needs economic development-- East Greensboro.

In my January 27, 2012, article, Why Not East Greensboro? the first article I ever posted to this blog, I wrote:

"But there are those among us who think that East Greensboro, in particular, the City owned, abandoned Bessemer Shopping Center located at the intersection of Phillips Avenue and Elwell Avenue as shown on the map below, would be a much better location for the Greensboro Performing Arts Center."

Some thought me joking. Others thought me crazy. Greensboro's elites were afraid I might actually pull it off. Especially after I was the one who was interviewed on National Public Radio's local affiliates.

They went on to have meetings about how downtown was more convenient so I posted Location, Location, Location with travel times from all the major thoroughfares and Interstates to the location I had picked in comparison to downtown. The downtown crowd stopped talking about the convenience of downtown.

Somebody claimed there was too much crime in east Greensboro. In But What About Crime In East Greensboro? I wrote:

"If that is indeed true, then a local gem like a multimillion dollar performing arts center would require the City of Greensboro to step-up the pace and do something to protect their/our investment. Building a performing arts center outside of downtown would require the City of Greensboro to become as vested in the rest of the city as they are vested in downtown Greensboro-- something many Greensboro residents have long complained the City does not do.

Build it and they will come? No, build it and they will stay-- vested."

It was later learned that violent crime in downtown Greensboro is higher than in East Greensboro.

As my series continued I wrote Greensboro Performing Arts: Public Or Private, and agreed that GPAC should be a public-private partnership but in the end what we got was a privately owned, publicly funded performing arts center.

Seems like nothing is as we were told it was to be.

In Woah! Not So Fast! I pointed out how other supporters were beginning to have concerns:

"Allen Johnson of the Greensboro News & Record has some concerns that the City of Greensboro is moving too fast in their effort to build a Greensboro Performing Arts Center. I think he's right.

For starters: the Greensboro City Council isn't even considering an East Greensboro location. Never mind that the City already owns the property or that there's lots of available property already for sale in the immediate area around surrounding the abandoned, Bessemer Shopping Center. Never mind that boarded and empty houses are all over the neighborhood. Never mind that land in East Greensboro can be bought for 1/10 the cost of downtown properties. Never mind that for most people, the East Greensboro location is more convenient and easier for heavy trucks and buses to access. Never mind anything that makes sense, Mayor Perkins has spoken and $72 Million Dollars is about to be spent like it or not.

Link via Ed Cone who also agrees it's time to apply the brakes."

Scary stuff! But not nearly as scary as what I wrote about in But The Rich Elite Won't Come To East Greensboro:

"That's an argument I've heard several times when pitching my idea for an East Greensboro Performing Arts Center on Phillips Ave. Is it true? Are Greensboro's well-to-do so classist and possibly racist, they would not attend shows at a performing arts center located anywhere other than Matt Brown's fiefdom, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex or the Mayor's anointed downtown location?

I would like to say that Greensboro's richest families are long past such behaviors but honestly, I cannot speak for what is in the hearts and minds of others. But if Greensboro's better-off population is so snobbish, classist and racist as to refuse to patronize an East Greensboro Performing Arts Center then none of Greensboro deserves to have a performing arts center no matter where they ultimately decide to locate it."

Can you imagine liberal patrons of the arts as to snobbish to travel to a state of the art performing arts center simply because it is located in a mostly minority, working class neighborhood? Before being told such things the thought never crossed my mind.

My next article, Let's Learn About The Area, pointed out all the available land in the area-- cheap land that could easily be developed, reducing the costs to taxpayers by 10s of Millions of Dollars. But no one seemed to care how much it would cost.

"All the streets in the area are wide, even by Greensboro's standards, with ample room for metered parking. Parking meters are among the highest sources of revenue for any well run city. Now if we only had a reason for people to park there. Sykes Ave, Elwell Ave and English St further to the west all lead directly to Wendover Avenue."

And this:

"I completed my survey of the area today. On Patio Place there is 1 empty house. I didn't attempt to count empty apartments. There was 1 empty house on Lancer ct, 2 more on Westhampton Dr. another on Textile Drive and 2 more on Sykes Ave bringing the total number of empty houses within 0.3 of a mile to 40 empty houses. Most of the empty homes are either abandoned or are substandard rental properties and several have been condemned by the City of Greensboro."

Obviously no one cared.

I continued that series with Performing Arts As Economic Stimulus in which I wrote:

"That's the excuse being pitched by proponents of a downtown Greensboro Performing Arts Center-- that spending taxpayers' dollars on building another building in downtown Greensboro will attract visitors to the city and stimulate the downtown economy.

But what about the rest of Greensboro, shouldn't we share in the "wealth" too?"
  I e-mailed every single post in this series to the entire Greensboro City Council and none of them cared about your neighborhoods enough to talk about the points I was making. A couple of them voted against GPAC but not one person on the Greensboro City Council voted to spend your tax dollars where they would do the most good.

I thought it should be named The Randall Jarrell Performing Arts Center after UNC-Greensboro professor, poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, novelist, and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress Randall Jarrell but they decided to build a monument to Steven Tanger who never even lived in Greensboro.

I've since been told I'm mistaken about Randall Jarrell being a man of color.

In Who Said Anything About A Subsidy? I pointed out how then Mayor Robbie Perkins claimed it could all be put together in just 9 months. Look here folks, it took them longer than 9 months to do this:

But I was still in favor of GPAC, still a supporter. I just wanted it put where it would do the most good.

In the 11th chapter, Aesthetics And Architecture, I wrote:

"The great thing about locating the East Greensboro Performing Arts Center in the location I've chosen is that it can and will be the focal point of the entire area and everything else can be designed around it.

Within the green circle are two filled lakes that could be dug back out if that's what the people want. And while they're not rivers there are 2 full time streams that have continued to flow through every summer drought in memory. Downtown certainly can't offer that. And should a high rise hotel be built nearby the view will encompass the many wooded acres of the 3 nearby neighborhood parks that already exist there.

Because the chosen site is not downtown the aesthetics won't need to comply with what is already built-- a bunch of drab brick and concrete boxes. Then, local businesses can come in to create a second downtown Greensboro built around the theme chosen for the East Greensboro Performing Arts Center."

Downtown couldn't touch that. No matter how beautiful the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts may be, in the location chosen, it will simply be another big building when it could have been the proud focal point of an entire community.

You see folks, back in my school days, structural engineering and architecture were my chosen fields of study. The site I'd picked was a designer's dream.

In Task Force To Weigh Benefits Of New Greensboro Performing Arts Center, reality began to set in when I wrote:

"Again, no mention of East Greensboro or any other Greensboro neighborhood. How about the econonomic impact to East Greensboro-- should that not also be considered? Only the Greensboro Colliseum Complex and Downtown Greensboro are being considered. How can you possibly justify spending $72 Million Dollars of other people's money without first asking those people what they think? How can you call that being open and candid when the rest of the city isn't even mentioned?

What kind of private investors would want to do business with people who so carelessly throw other people's money around?"

The entire city had been shut out of the conversation and it had taken them less that 2 months to do it. Yes, they would continue to have public meetings but everything beyond that point was nothing more than a show.

In What Kind Of Fool? I had my first of many scoops when I exposed the News & Record's attempt to sell their property to GPAC.

My series didn't end with Esse Quam Videri  but my hopes were dashed. I continued to try for a while longer but I know there would be no East Greensboro Performing Arts Center and I also know that everything we were being told was all lies.

And the lies continue until this day.

The costs now exceed $80 Million. What began in the last days of 2011 is now about to spill over into 2017. We still haven't actually seen any money from private doners and the City of Greensboro is under contract to cover any shortfalls for a performing arts center that will be owned not by the City of Greensboro but by a private company managed by Walker Sanders and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.