HIGH POINT, N.C. — Tensions were still running high between High Point City Council members and the non-profit working on revitalization.
At an update with Council Thursday morning, Mayor Bernita Sims said she is just as passionate as the people working with The City Project. But Council voted earlier this month to refocus funding and move around The City Project’s executive director position, paid by the city.
The City Project is a non-profit working to implement the Core City Plan for revitalization first introduced in 2007. Council wants the Executive Director job, currently filled by Wendy Fuscoe, to move into City Hall and work on city-wide projects, not just those in the Uptowne district.
Several Council members say they’ve gotten complaints The City Project focuses too much time and money on Uptowne. They also don’t believe it’s appropriate for the city to pay a full-time position on a non-profit staff.
The City Project Chairman Richard Wood argued that’s what they were instructed to do years ago. He understood the plan was to start with the “low hanging fruit” of Uptowne, where studies showed they’d get a high return on investment. He feels it is appropriate for the city to pay Fuscoe’s salary.
Wood said Ignite High Point plans involve fourteen major projects to reinvent Uptowne and other parts of the city.
“We’ve got to make something happen, this town is dying,” Wood insisted to Council Thursday.
The City Project hoped, for example, to create a public park area at the library, make the district more walkable with a “road diet” and support pop-up markets throughout town.
Wood is concerned changes could put the brakes on their efforts.
Sims said, “There’s another whole group of folks not in this room that are equally as passionate about where they live and the things they think they need for quality of life.”
High Point resident and business owner Ray Soltis told FOX8, “My property value and everybody’s property value in High Point is going down, we’re losing money, our city is slowing dying.”
He believes it’s best to follow the direction of Ignite High Point’s research. “The biggest bang for the buck of all the studies they’ve done is the Uptowne project. Now we can quivel about $130,000 for an employee staff position, and all the nickels and dimes,” he said. “But if there’s other opportunities that they can invest money in High Point and get us a bigger bang for the buck than Uptowne, let us know.
Sims and other council members said revitalization will take more time and more money.
Wood added, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Councilman Jay Wagner hopes this disagreement will not halt progress. “I think this has really, really damaged the relationships that are gonna be necessary to get this done,” he said.
Council mentioned the idea of a bond referendum to help funding.
Councilwoman Becky Smothers said the City can do its part to make revitalization happen, but pointed out that attracting private investment is the biggest challenge.