High Point Public Library_before

North Carolina City Charts New Course with Support from Local REALTORS®

Concerned that their city’s once-vibrant downtown core had fallen into decline as the furniture industry the area was long known for moved away, REALTORS® in High Point, N.C., sprang into action and played a key role in sponsoring a series of strategy sessions two years ago aimed at reversing the community’s fortunes.

Now, plans to reimagine High Point that emerged from those meetings in 2013, called charrettes, are moving ahead, as officials prepare to transform the parking lot in front of the city’s public library into a more functional and attractive space they hope will encourage people to come downtown more often—and even call it home one day. The project, set to begin during the next few months, will include play areas for children, pocket parks, trees and other features intended to make the parcel of land surrounding in front of the library a destination for people who live in the High Point region, said Mary Sizemore, director of the High Point Public Library.

“There’s a growing emphasis around the country on libraries serving as the center of communities,” and High Point is hopeful that the changes it is planning to make to the space outside its library will be a catalyst for improvement in the nearby area, she said.

The idea for the library construction project is one of a number of proposals for revitalizing High Point that came from the charrettes, which were made possible in part by the High Point Regional Association of REALTORS® (HPRAR) through a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant from the National Association of REALTORS®. The HPRAR REALTORS® Commercial Alliance contributed another $1,500.

The High Point, N.C. public library and the parking lot that is set to be replaced.

Among the other ideas to bring new life to High Point produced by the charrettes was a proposal to make a stretch of Main Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, more walkable. City officials have not yet approved that suggestion, but other initiatives designed to bring visitors are under way, including a concert series at High Point’s historic train depot.

As a result of its involvement in the strategy sessions, the High Point Regional Association of REALTORS® has strengthened its ties with the local business community, said Ed Terry, executive vice president of the association. “We’re very visible now, and we have good ties with the Chamber of Commerce. They realize how important housing is to the overall success of High Point.”

In March, NAR presented HPRAR with a Community Outreach Award in recognition of its efforts to spark revitalization in High Point.

High Point jumps to life for one week every six months, when the internationally known High Point Market draws tens of thousands of people to the city of about 100,000 for the largest furniture industry trade show in the world, said Richard Wood, a retired financial adviser who serves as the volunteer director of The City Project, the nonprofit organization formed to pursue the urban renewal recommendations that stemmed from the charettes. But during the rest of the year, the city is largely quiet, because most of the furniture-manufacturing jobs that once underpinned the High Point economy have disappeared, a casualty of the shift of furniture production to overseas factories, he said.

“This is about getting back on our feet,” Wood said. “We want the real estate market to soar again in High Point,” and the changes coming to the library are a key step in that direction.

Sam Silverstein

Sam Silverstein is a writer-producer for the National Association of REALTORS®. He is based in Washington can be reached at ssilverstein@realtors.org.

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