We’ve moved

We’ve integrated our blog into our primary domain at Yes! Weekly. Please update your bookmarks for the Yes! Current here.

Thanks for reading Yes! Weekly.

Advertisements

Tour of Revolution Mill

The Cone brothers started Revolution Mill in the 1890s after realizing that it would be easier to process the raw materials needed to make denim and other textiles closer to where the cotton was grown.

Revolution Mill is symboloc  of Greensboro’s history as a textile capital.  Historic preservation efforts led by Self-Help of Durham and architect Eddie Belk, and helping to turn the space into a business and residential center with a style that fuses industrial and modern.

Members of Preservation Greensboro tour the space, currently under construction, on July 23.  The stripped-down condition of the space allowed those on the tour to get a closer look at some of the original features.

 

PGI offers to save historic Cascade Saloon

576835_10151500949998722_592019753_n

With a fate that has been hanging in the balance for years, the historic Cascade Saloon on Elm street may be saved through an offer made to the City of Greensboro by Preservation Greensboro Inc.

Cascade Saloon is one of the oldest structures in downtown Greensboro, and in desperate need of stabilization. The building is currently owned by the City of Greensboro, and on July 10 members of City Council reviewed their options on what to do with the structure.

Assistant City Manager David Parrish presented the best bids received by the City to preserve or demolish the structure. The best demolition bid came back with an estimated cost of $600,000. This shocked some members of Council.

“How can the Greensboro Inn be torn down for $35,000 and this one would be so much more expensive?” said councilman Tony Wilkins.

Cascade’s Saloon proximity to the railroad tracks would complicate demolition. Permits would be needed to ensure that crews would not disrupt the railway traffic, which according to Mayor Nancy Vaughan, sees 65 trains pass through downtown every day.

A recent bid from PGI offered to take the property from the City in order to secure and preserve the building. PGI asks that the City pay them $170,000 to help subsidize the cost of stabilizing the structure.

“This is much better than the initial plan,” said councilman Zack Matheny. “The city can save money. Financially for the City this is a lot better deal than we had anticipated.”

Other members of council were skeptical.

“What if people can’t get to the Cantina and other businesses nearby while construction is going on?” said council member Sharon Hightower.

Other council members argued that the risk of disrupting local businesses was a lesser concern compared to the benefit of preserving a historic building for $430,000 less than the cost of demolishing it.

“We have to make the best decision for the city,” said council member Nancy Hoffman. “Not just one person.”

Matheny added that the City of Greensboro was not a good landlord, and that it would be better for the building to be owned by PGI anyway.

Council decided that they needed more information from PGI about the intended future of Cascade Saloon before they could make a decision about the bid.

“Because we don’t know the end use, we can’t make that decision right now,” said Mayor Vaughan.

Reynolds Building changes hands

With the handing off of a key, the building at 51 East Fourth Street, which was formerly the headquarters of RJ Reynolds Tobacco company, in downtown Winston-Salem is now official.

A press conference was held Friday morning in the building’s main lobby where Reynolds President Andrew Gilchrist, Mayor Allen Joines, PMC Property Group president Ron Caplan, and Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group CIO Joe Long addressed the media on plans for the project, which will include a 175-room boutique hotel, full service restaurant/bar and luxury apartment units on the upper floors. PMC and Kimpton purchased the building on May 22 for $7.8 million.

“They’re giving this grand old lady an extraordinary new life,” Joines proclaimed to an excited crowd.

Caplan said he anticipates a total investment of $60 million and said construction will begin sometime in the next 30 days, with the project being completed by the fall of 2015. The first phase of the project will be the demolition of some of the building’s aging interior structures.

“We’re going to have to get everything else out of here that would be in the way of reconfiguring the building for a hotel and multifamily (apartments),” Caplan said.

He said PMC was attracted to Winston-Salem due to the amount of business already downtown, and the potential for the building to play a major role in furthering development.

“From a pure development standpoint, this will be the central part of the community for years to come and therefore makes it a good building in terms of what we do.” he said.

“This is about as vibrant and progressive a state as their is on the east coast.”

In addition, Long cited the building’s upkeep as a factor in determining the building’s suitability for a hotel.

“We know we’re not going to poke into a wall and find a hornet’s next like you see in some of our other properties,” he said while adding that Kimpton has been involved in about 15 adaptive reuse projects since the company was formed in 1981.

“There has never been a building in as pristine condition, as well cared for as this one,” he said.

This is the second project that PMC and Kimpton have teamed up on, with the first being the conversion of a historic building  in Pittsburgh into a hotel last year.

“When we started to sit down and talk about the possible opportunity of building things together, we found that we were alike,” Caplan said of the two companies.

Image

Reynolds President Andrew Gilchrist hands the building’s key to Kimpton CIO Joe Long (center) and PMC president Ron Caplan (left).

Heritage House : Up close and personal

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first thing you feel is the heat. The weight of the oppressive air hits you just before the odor. It’s the odor that is hardest to deal with, the smell of urine, heaviest in the stairwell, lingers still in the hallway on the first floor.

On the second floor I could take only about five minutes of the combined heat and odor. But the pitch-black darkness of the second floor added to the disturbing thought that people, including 50 children, live here.

It’s called Heritage House. I’m not sure whose heritage is embodied here, but the future needs to be different. People shouldn’t be living like this. Residents and community activists have been making noise for a couple of weeks, but I had no idea the conditions would be this bad. Not a just  a few miles from where the city and the private sector plan to spend $60 million or so on a high-class performing arts center.

An estimated 177 people live in the Heritage House. The few residents I spoke to described an open ended drug market in the courtyard and in the hallways. One man who spoke to me as I left said young men stand in the hallways, much like the black as night hallway I walked through on the second floor, and offer to sell drugs.

“What do you need, man? I hear that every day,” David said.

Police have been called to Heritage House 2,860 times in the last 12 months, according to city officials. David says that police come in the front looking for drug dealers who run out the back, through an alley and up to the storefronts on Randleman Road.

Another resident agreed with City Councilman Mike Barber, who called for Heritage House to be shut down. The resident said the only hope for the place, which her mother has lived in for four years, is for everything to be torn out and replaced. The carpet, the furniture, the windows. I came across a pair of home health nurses leaving in disgust. They had been there to make an initial visit with a client, but police advised them it was not a good time, as inspectors where on that person’s floor just then. The nurses said they would not be coming back. One of them described it as the worst place she’d ever visited.

An animated owner who I came across just before leaving said that he does his best to screen his clients. But with no one controlling owner, and a weak homeowners association that currently is $55,000 behind on its water bill, there seemed little he could do to force compliance from others.

The man said part of the problem was that the city had shut down low-cost motels like Greensboro Inn and that those residents, who need the least affordable housing possible, had simply migrated, along with drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes, to the Heritage House.

City officials swept through the seven-story complex on Meadowview Road, about 100 yards from the glimmering glass front of the city’s transportation operations center. Police provided security for inspectors, who had reached the fifth floor by later Wednesday. After a press conference at the transportation center, where District 1 Councilwoman Sharon Hightower spoke forcefully about the city’s intention to improve conditions there, media types were allowed an hour or two in the early afternoon to talk with residents and interact with city workers doing their best amidst the heat of a hot summer day.

Stunned residents, many in wheelchairs or with canes, seemed to grasp what bit of dignity they could as they went about their business amidst the frenzy of attention.

One is left wondering why the proper attention or enforcement was lacking in the first place, a question few city officials seemed prepared to answer.

 

 

SciQuariam Hopes to Introduce Purrfect Mate for Fishing Cat

photo

Stop watching cat videos and head to the Greensboro Science Center! The Greensboro SciQuarium introduced a new resident today to join Tallulah the fishing cat. Mako, a 9-month-old male fishing cat, was brought to Fishing Cat Cove in the center today.

The fishing cat is slightly larger than the average house cat, weighing between 13 and 26 pounds. Their coats are covered in black spots, similar to a leopard, and they have a stocky, muscular build. Fishing cats get their name from their hunting practices of using their paws to scoop up fish. Fishing cats have even been known to dive into the water after their aquatic prey. Fishing Cat Cove at the SciQuarium includes a small stream with running water to encourage this natural fishing behavior.

Fishing cats, native to Southeast Asia, are classified as endangered with fewer than 10,000 felines left in the wild. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to fishing cats as wetlands, the preferred environment for the cat, have been drastically reduced in Asia over the last ten years.

Mako and Tallulah will be paired together in hopes that they will produce offspring. The Greensboro SciQuarium participates in Species Survival Plans as an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

According to a press release, the center’s curator had been searching for a potential mate that would be suitable for Tullulah. Mako was recommended due to his age and genetic makeup, but “the cats are being introduced slowly.” Mako was introduced to the exhibit alone on this morning so that the cats will be able to been to recognize one another by smell.

There is a behind the scenes area of the exhibit where the cats will also be able to see each other from separate areas before making direct contact with one another. On Wednesday the cats will be introduced face-to-face for the first time, with the hopes that they will be comfortable enough with one another to be on exhibit together by the weekend.

Greensboro City Council Flustered by Bill from Higher State Powers

Council members were noticeably uncomfortable while expressing their general lack of faith in a resolution to support a student prayer and religious activities bill passed by the NC House on June 4.

The resolution was introduced by Councilman Tony Wilkins, who felt that SB 370 clarified confusion among administrators and students.

The first amendment already protects the religious freedoms of students in schools. The NC ACLU opposes the bill, which it called problematic.

“The right of students to voluntarily express and practice their faith in public schools is already well-established and protected by the First Amendment,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “Some of this bill’s unnecessary and confusing language could wrongly encourage public school personnel to takes sides in student-led religious activity, making students with different beliefs feel excluded or ostracized not only by their classmates, but also by their teachers and schools.”

Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter was concerned that the bill might encourage faithful students to become more aggressive in proselytizing to their public school peers.

“I believe that moments of silence allow everyone to pray; you’re not co-mingling church and state,” said Abuzuaiter. “This allows students to distribute literature. This part concerns me.”

Mayor Vaughan voiced concern that it was not the place of City Council to take a stance on the issue. Vaughan felt that the bill was under the jurisdiction of the School Board.

“I feel that this is a resolution that should come from the School Board,” Vaughan said. “We’ve had concerns over what the legislature has been doing to us by overstepping into areas of our authority, and I feel that we would be doing the same thing here to the School Board.”

“This isn’t us telling the School Board what to do, it’s the state,” said Wilkins.

Councilman Jamal Fox also agreed that it was a School Board issue, even though he expressed his agreement with the first part of the bill, which explains what students are allowed to do while at school.

Councilman Zack Matheny felt that he had to support the resolution as an advocate for free speech, but made it clear that he was unhappy about having to vote on it at all.

“I don’t like these resolutions,” said Matheny. “We bring them up and I complain about them every time. We’re talking about something where we don’t really have any say-so whatsoever.”

Councilman Mike Barber was also frustrated by presence of the bill on the supplemental agenda, and felt it was an example of the NC General Assembly’s lack of priorities.

“Here in this Council we’re doing things where the rubber meets the road,” said Barber. “I wish our state legislators spent as much time on more pertinent issues. I commend Tony for bringing this to us but this is one that I just can’t support.”

Sharon Hightower voted to support the resolution after expressing her apprehension over the consequences of the grievance process outlined in the bill.

“When I see Raleigh stepping up to something like this I’m a little leery of the reason behind it,” said Hightower. “I’m not against religion at all. I’m just afraid that supporting this with the grievance process will get people going back and forth in court.”

Matheny and Wilkins voted to pass the resolution along with Hightower, but ultimately the bill failed to pass on a vote of three to six.