This article was originaly written by 88.5WFDD. Click to view >>
Business High Point Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Since the decline of manufacturing, the city has faced stumbling blocks on its road to revitalization. But officials there say in recent years some of the efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
Six years ago, the city brought in a nationally known architect and urban planner to look at ways to bring life downtown when the popular furniture market isn’t in operation. It was part of an effort called Ignite High Point, and was met with steep opposition. According to Chamber President and CEO Patrick Chapin, the group took the unusual step of forming a political action committee, changing the makeup of city government, and paving the way for new projects, like the new baseball stadium that will open in May.
Chapin says that’s just the beginning.
“You go a few blocks further north, you’ve got the hospital,” says Chapin. “Go a few blocks north of that, you’ve got the library. And to the east a few blocks we’ll be having a new children’s museum. And then you have [High Point University]. So, we’re kind of creating this new center of activity within a new respective downtown.”
Also in the works is the High Point 365 project – a 100,000 square foot former mill near the park that will be converted into a center for innovation and culture. Adjoining that building, another renovated mill named The Factory will become an events center with restaurants, and nearby brewpub. A new hotel and apartment complex are planned for the area as well.
Chapin says these projects speak to the power of public/private partnerships.
“The $1.5 million that the state offered us in a matching grant — just for our project now — will end up being a $30 million project,” says Chapin. “And that’s all because of the vision of creating a catalyst project. Because if we didn’t have a ball field, or something like that to energize the city, we wouldn’t have bought the mill, and we wouldn’t be doing these other sorts of things. It’s just becoming a domino effect where restaurants are popping up, and more.”
Now in the Chamber’s 100th year, Chapin is looking toward the future with a renewed sense of optimism.
“I think what happened in Durham, Greenville, South Carolina, and even Winston-Salem from my understanding — great revitalizations that happened kind of organically over fifteen or twenty years— with the cash commitment, and the leadership commitment we've received, I think we’ll be able to do it in five to ten years,” says Chapin. “And specifically, the plant projects and that whole campus, I believe wholeheartedly that in ten years, people will look at that renovated mill building and point to it and say, ‘That was a renaissance of entrepreneurism in the furnishings world and in High Point.’ So, it’s an exciting time.”
By David Ford