GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s the heart and soul of any community: the downtown.
So, what does it mean when there are empty, rundown buildings in a city’s downtown area?
It’s something Greensboro business owners and developers are concerned about, in the midst of efforts to grow the city.
“If you see one vacant building, it’s easier to say, ‘Oh, there’s a string of them,'” said Esa Hanhan, the co-owner of Jerusalem Market on Elm.
Nestled in between graffiti, no trespassing signs, and empty storefronts, is his restaurant.
“I’ve had a few people comment about how it makes them uncomfortable to walk by especially at night,” Hanhan said.
While the restaurant is a popular spot, he, and former Greensboro mayor Robbie Perkins, think that business would be better if something was done with the vacant buildings on South Elm Street.
“I just see graffiti, I see dirty, I see empty,” Perkins said. “It deflates the momentum we should have in our downtown.”
Perkins is currently a commercial real estate broker. He has a vested interest in growing Greensboro.
“It’s going to be the future of our city. We’re either going to fail or we’re going to succeed, based on the health and vitality of downtown,” he said.
Perkins says the first step is getting the property owners of the three vacant buildings to renovate and fill them.
“What kind of incentives can you give to get these buildings restored?” he said. “[They should] impose penalties to get them to want to do something positive with the buildings.”
Both Hanhan and Perkins told FOX8 it will be a team effort to get Greensboro where it should be, but it has to be done soon.
“The more the merrier. We need more businesses because people still forget that downtown Greensboro is an area to come,” Hanhan said.
“If we don’t, in 10 years from now, someone will be talking to you, right here, about these three empty buildings,” Perkins said.