How a private redevelopment launched Greensboro’s downtown revitalization

In the mid-1990s, downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, was lifeless: “There were no white table restaurants, nothing happened after five o’clock, and all of the retail had moved out,” says Andy Scott, the city economic development director.

When the city purchased properties and sought a private developer to rebuild a small neighborhood just south of downtown, builders thought the city had lost its mind.

The area harbored prostitution and crack use, but few long-time residents. There was little interest from the local firms—but, to the city’s surprise, a suburban developer from Charlotte, 90 miles away, stepped in.

Developer Nate Bowman was immersed in the practice of traditional neighborhood development, or TND, and worked with the similarly forward-thinking architect Thomas Low.

Bowman’s 7-block project was a big success. Property taxes rose 800 percent over 1995 levels, according to a 2005 report.

The heart of Southside—largely vacant in the 1990s—saw values rise more than 11 times with new townhouses, live-work buildings, and condominiums.

Southside had an even bigger impact on downtown as a whole. “Southside began the renaissance of downtown,” Scott says.

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