Preservation or Growth? The Tough Choice Greensboro Locals Face

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Ethan Beaulieu
Staff Writer

As Greensboro continues to grow, the metropolitan is gradually expanding. The development of housing and urban settings have now grown to the extent that historic homes are being bulldozed. For these homes, it is too late, but the message that arises from their demise serves as a warning to similar neighborhoods.

Cedar Street is home not only to past artists but several present ones as well. Houses that line the streets often have their own names and styles of décor differentiating them from others. Soon the googly eyes that personify the hedges will be uprooted, replaced with what is referred to as an “upscale walkable urban project.”

To many who live in the nearby area, it is a sad end to a cherished part of their home. To others, it brings opportunity and job prospects. It is easy to paint the argument into a black and white picture but that would be unrealistically simple. Both the preservation of historic neighborhoods and their development hold benefits to the community as well as costs. Whether or not a community should choose to preserve or modernize their past is highly situational.

To a local with personal ties to the area, the homes that line the street are worth more than just their aesthetic value. The history of these homes is mingled with their own, bringing a personal aspect into play that investors cannot relate to. When looking to determine the historical value of these properties, it is important to look at not only the value to the history of the state but also to the local one as well. Something that may have not been as noticeable to the eyes of an outsider can be significant to the community.

Preservation is often a way to slow major changes to these properties. Major changes to these properties exterior and landscaping often require approval from preservation organizations once they have been designated historically significant. In the case of Greensboro’s Cedar Street, the steps to preserve the property were not taken in time to have a meaningful impact on the outcome. This serves as a warning to those who are potentially at risk of having their neighborhoods unwantedly developed.

For communities who come together to preserve these homes, the choice has been that of historic preservation over economic growth. For some, that decision isn’t as lightly made. In areas with stagnant economies, the influx of outsider business could be a helping hand in an unpleasant situation. The investments made by outside sources would be put into the community, and in turn, would encourage spending. The construction brings jobs and businesses that take up residence in the new construction act as kindling for a dimly burning economies.

However, we must acknowledge that as new businesses enter the area, they often are owned by larger companies such as Starbucks or Panera. These businesses compete with local ones and take the majority of the revenue out of the locality. This is not to say that all large corporations are this way. When offices are built for companies, the salary of the employees are pumped into the local economy, creating a positive cash flow instead of the negative one described previously.

This is all to say that development and investment can either create growth or drain an already strained economy. Determining whether or not development for a community is the right choice with respect to both the economy and community is a highly complex matter that even politicians struggle to grapple with. Each community has different circumstances and perspectives that contribute to the argument and each must be taken into account. The essential question to this is and will continue to be, how value is balanced with history on one side, and growth on the other.



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