Ask, and ye shall not receive.

Several years ago, developer Marty Kotis approached the Aycock and Fisher Park Neighborhoods for input on a property he had just acquired.  Located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Wendover Ave. and N. Church Street, he wanted to know what we thought should become of the railroad-abutting parcel that had been home to an old service station, and then a Christmas tree lot, for many years.  The lot is an obvious gateway to both historic neighborhoods and we were pleased he sought our input and took the task seriously.

Many ideas for what we thought would be a good fit for close-by services, shops and amenities were floated; things we needed and would support.  The ideas included a Fresh Market-style grocery, a florist/card shop (the property is very close to Moses Cone Hospital), sporting goods, and – of course – A Fisher’s-Grill-type drinking establishment among others.

So, which of the quaint little shops and walkable services do you suppose is about to rise on the property? A brand-spanking-new Office Depot.

Now, I like me some Office Depot as well as the next guy, but I think that chain store in that location is ill-advised.  From my experience they depend on effortless parking and easy, high traffic egress and ingress.  The location they are building upon is nothing like that.

I mean… have you ever tried to negotiate the intersection of Wendover and Church?  Most turns are forbidden, and those that aren’t won’t neccesarily get you to where you need to go half the time.

I know its not my land nor my money, but there are a lot of stores and services that we told Kotis we needed and would eagerly support on his property.  Office Depot was definitely not on that list… but here it comes anyway.  So now, I and others who might squawk about this will likely be labeled a ‘naysayer’ because we are not very welcoming of such a poorly placed, ill-fitting, addition to downtown’s ongoing revitalization.

Why do developers even ask?

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16 Comments

  1. Posted June 20, 2006 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I remember the rezoning and proposal, “for illustrative purposes only,” and supported it. And even though, “I like me some Office Depot as well as the next guy ” (Oh.Dear.God. Hoggard!) I agree it is out of character for the neighborhood.

    C’mon Marty! You can do better than this!

  2. Ginger Bush
    Posted June 20, 2006 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    And why do people even comment?

  3. Posted June 20, 2006 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    On a semi-related note, didn’t Kotis buy the Westover at Friendly property, and what’s up with that? They cleared the property and then… nothing.

  4. David Wharton
    Posted June 20, 2006 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot depends on the building design. If they do something like they did in Charlotte near Dilworth, like this:

    http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/3702/655/1600/offdepot.jpg

    no problem.

    If there’s no rezoning to be done on the property, the only way to get this to happen would be to have
    the neighborhood associations (and maybe city planning staff) contact Office Depot directly, and try
    to get a neighborhood-friendly design built.

    It’s such a narrow little lot, they’re going to have to build something a little different there anyway.

  5. Posted June 20, 2006 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    At least it can be said that Kotis doesn’t normally construct ugly buildings. Their shops on Westover are attractive and do at least keep a sense of scale to their surroundings.

    I have placed a call to Jeff Nimmer at Kotis to get more info and will post what I learn.

    David, the Dilworth store was an adaptive re-use of an older structure, so we know that OD at least knows how to fit in if they have a say in store design.

  6. Posted June 20, 2006 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Where will the entrances and exits to the parking lot be?

    The best place I can see is on Church as close as possible to Bessemer.

    Is it legal to take a left from westbound Wendover onto Church?

    Traffic on that first block of Church south of Wendover can be not fun already…

    Church is a decent way in and out of downtown, this is not going to make that trip more pleasant.

  7. Posted June 20, 2006 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Ed,
    No one I know has seen a site plan, I’ll try to get one from Jeff when he calls.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t take that left off Wendover onto Church. But when I go that way, I use the Yanceyville St. exit before I get to the Church St./Wendover intersection so my memory might be faulty.

  8. Posted June 21, 2006 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    So we’ll see if the City Council decides on commerce over SAFETY.

    A much better location would be the property belonging to Phil Bryant of Shop Rite True Value Hardware farther East on Wendover. Phil has a piece of property bigger than Friendly Shopping Center or 4 Seasons Mall graded and waiting for a box store to anchor the shopping center. His land fronts Wendover, has access from both directions, and is now on city water and sewer.

    Phil has already moved his curb market and is willing to bulldoze his old shopping center to make way for a bigger shopping center. Phil has spent the last 20 years trying to court a big box store and get the support of local government. His location is one mile west of the new bypass and no farther from downtown than any current Office Depot in Greensboro. The land has already been graded to code so building costs would be less– far less.

    Besides, how many of the folks in Fisher Park are likely to work in an Office Depot. Farther east there’s a workforce within walking distance just waiting for those minimum wage jobs. This might be a great thing for the developer but would no doubt be the lesser choice for Office Depot.

    Not to mention the traffic nightmare of Church and Wendover.

  9. Posted June 21, 2006 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I remember well the Westover at Friendly property. The developer’s reps indicated that this was the first attempt to rezone the property. It wasn’t. The owner of the property had let two old 20′s style houses run down and become eye-sores in the neighborhood. There was also some bad feelings between the former Drug Store and the owners of the property. A lane, which had been used by shops in the little neighborhood shopping center was closed off which made a hardship on the existing shops. They were eventually forced to close and the property sold to you-know-who.

    The developer made a bad deal with the help of former city council member Perkins. The so-called westerwood neighborhood association was persuaded to give their support for the “for illustrative purposes only” development of the property.

    You know the story. “If you don’t do it our way, the next guy build something really terrible.” How can city council and the planning board continue to believe this song? I certainly don’t know.

    The decision to allow a Walgreens Big box store at the corner of Aycock and Springgarden streets will cause the intersection to be more of a nightmare than it is now. I think I heard “no left turns out of the parking lot and additional turn lanes into it?”

    Still waiting results of Westover/Friendly project.

    Back to the Church Street property question. Good luck !!!

  10. Posted June 21, 2006 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Why do developers even ask?

    I have a question for you.

    Do they really ask in good faith? OR do they just ask you to accept their plans?

  11. Mike K.
    Posted June 21, 2006 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Hey Diane. I just read over on Sandy Carmany’s weblog about the Walgreens rezoning case and it’s last minute passage after some revisions. Not knowing anything about the specific changes that were made, are you basically concerned about the traffic generated by the store and its effects on the area. I go to church just down the street and the traffic issue was a big concern for me, knowing how that intersection works now. Ms. Carmany said that they took steps to make the site more pedestrian oriented (the no left turns I guess you mentioned) since that’s a major goal for Spring Garden Street. Any more thoughts or info you can share? It sounds like the neighborhood folks were heard to some degree, although I’m still wondering about the need for two large drug stores with a few hundred feet of each other.

  12. westerwood dweller
    Posted June 21, 2006 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Diane, why do you call it the “so-called westerwood neighborhood association”? I moved to the neighborhood 3 years ago and have been getting the newsletters all along and assumed that it was legit. Isn’t it?

  13. Posted June 21, 2006 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    The association is dominated by a few people who think they are doing the right thing. They have very little regard for the majority of the residents. I respect their right to petition the government, but to do it in the name of all residents of the area they call Westerwood is unfair.

    Only property owners can vote, which eliminates many residents. Most of us don’t want to be involved in the association. It has brought much division into the neighborhood. We didn’t sign up for it. They just claim to represent us. Many residents have signed affidavits saying they are not members and do not want to be represented by it.
    I have not signed anything, because I did not join in the first place.

    This has been a nice, friendly area for many years. There have been property rights and no neighborhood covenants have been signed.

    I have lived on Fairmont Street for 35 years. Even before the so-called neighborhood association took over, we had yard sales, parties in the park, Easter Egg hunts, block parties and chili socials, a big July 4th celebration and friendly conservations with out neighbors. When there was a problem, the residents got together and tried to fix it.

    To hear the neighborhood association board tell it – this was a rundown, crime ridden, deteriorating area with mostly rental property and junk cars. It was a neighborhood with no cohesive energy.

    Everything good that happens here is claimed as being done by the so-called association.
    Please excuse my bitterness, but I have been here long enough to know the truth. Many new residents are sucked into the tales told by some people.

    I would like to meet you. Maybe I know you already, but in this neighborhood, one has to be careful. Rumors abound.

  14. Posted June 21, 2006 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I meant to say friendly conversations with our neighbors. Sometimes my spelling is bad when I get on a rant.
    sorry

  15. Posted June 21, 2006 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    First, regarding the issue of neighborhood associations, if you’ve got problems, get neighbors together and work it out. If the issue is that there are a few who aren’t happy or never will be happy, then you learn to live with them. But if as many people are opposed as you say, then you can band together and work to make the changes.

    As to whether developers get their way everytime, all the time, uh, no. But the citizens DO need to get involved and I know it’s a lot of work, but if you feel strongly about something, you do the work.

    I had people say to me, “I didn’t show up because I didn’t think you would have ever passed it.” Well, we’re not mind readers and more often than not, rezonings can go either way. If the neighbors don’t voice their feelings, I took that as tacit approval.

  16. Posted June 21, 2006 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    JW,
    I have been working for my neighborhood for years. I understand what you are saying, but most neighborhoods haven’t been through what mine has. It is an uphill fight, but some of us keep trying.
    Some of the neighbors got together to form an alternate association. The city (Greensboro Neighborhood Congress) would not recognize it because it was formed after the first one. Also, board members of one of the associations dominated the board of the GNC.
    I’m not in this for a personality fight. I hope most of the members of these competing groups think that they are doing the right thing for the neighborhood.
    It gets harder and harder to live here. Many people have left. Some of us stick it out and do the best we can.
    The majority did win the disagreement about becoming an Historic District. That wore us out. We don’t want to fight any more.
    I will not clog up David’s blog with any more talk about this, I’m tired.
    See ya,