HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — After more than two decades of helping Triad communities develop and thrive, Forward High Point President Ray Gibbs has announced he will retire from his duties, effective January 2022.
Gibbs was hired to lead Forward High Point in 2016, after a successful run at overseeing the development of downtown Greensboro a decade prior.
“As a designer, you can’t turn that off,” said Gibbs, of his future of architecture ideas.
Gibbs was hired by the City of Greensboro in 1999 to help breathe new life into a downtown area that was dilapidated after the fall of the textile and tobacco industries.
“Elm Street was closed; buildings were boarded up. There were several that were caving in. We really took the approach of one building, one business at a time,” he said.
Between 1999 and 2007 he saw the installment of Triad Stage, National Bank Field, and more than $200 million worth of projects to get people back to downtown Greensboro and help establish its new identity.
“[I want it to be] that you would bring your guest from out of town, that you would show them that this is our community. You know, ‘I want our wedding picture taken here to show everyone,’” Gibbs said.
In 2016, after he left his post in Greensboro, High Point city leaders wanted to replicate that success.
Gibbs was asked to come on as the Development Director for Forward High Point.
Among his first projects assigned was the creation of what would become known as Truist Stadium.
The project would put the city into roughly $100 million of debt that it was expected to pay off within a few years.
Two years after its construction Gibbs said, “the ballpark area … it starts to become a new downtown.”
The city has not only been able to pay off the debt, but “there’s going to be $200 million worth of development within one block of the stadium within five years.”
The success, while slowly building, has taken longer than Gibbs and city leaders hoped.
Gibbs explained that High Point started roughly 15 years later than Greensboro and other cities to reenvision their downtown area.
The building infrastructure for entertainment venues, housing, and local shops is harder to develop in downtown High Point.
“Those buildings really don’t exist and the land values are so high. You can’t just do a one or two. You have to start looking at a much bigger scale – that means more time.”
Gibbs has said he has high hopes for the future of High Point, along with a slew of undeveloped, and undiscovered ideas.
His last day is Jan. 31, however, he plans to stay on, in some capacity, as a consultant.
The search for his replacement is still going on.