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Sharing ideas for downtown growth in Greensboro

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A major player in downtown Charlotte’s growth was in Greensboro today sharing ideas with city leaders here.

Greensboro native Michael Smith is the president and C.E.O. of Charlotte Center City Partners and chairman of the International Downtown Association. He spoke at The Triad Business Journal’s Power Breakfast in coordination with Downtown Greensboro, Inc.

“Great cities are not built overnight. That's what it takes, it's such a team sport,” Smith told FOX8.

He said Greensboro is doing at least one thing even better than Charlotte did when it was growing. “You've done a much better job on preserving and renovating and adaptively reusing your historic buildings,” he pointed out.

Smith discussed how to retain young talent, attract corporate headquarters to downtown and use events and programs such as bike sharing to continue growth.

DGI President Zack Matheny said the community’s current investment is evident in projects like the Tanger Performing Arts Center, Bellmeade Village hotel and apartments project, LeBauer City Park and Union Square effort.

“But we’ve got to always be thinking about how to complement what's happening. What can we think about for the next generation? What can we think about for the next five years or 10 years?” Matheny questioned.

Matheny said the first step is creating a fully-researched long-term plan for “what’s next” in Greensboro. “I don't have anything we can really put our hands on that says: this is our comprehensive plan.”

He estimates such a plan would cost about $500,000 to research and create. It would have to involve everything from developers and the city’s planning department to local resources that are helping eliminate homelessness.

Council member Nancy Hoffman said, “The big thing that Michael said today is that you have to have a plan. You work that plan, you constantly evaluate it and update it and you just keep working it.”

Hoffman added, “Our role as council really is to set that vision I think and to be a cheerleader for that. But at the same time, also fund what we need to do.”

She said balancing the budget to support all neighborhoods and regions of the city is challenging but vital for downtown’s success.