Feature Article for 1997 Piedmont Triad Newcomer
As North Carolina’s third-largest city, Greensboro achieves a comfortable balance between big-city sophistication and small-town atmosphere, traditional values and contemporary tastes.
Greensboro’s central location makes it a natural hub for the Piedmont Triad’s lively economic, cultural and social activities. The city is a transportation hub with the Piedmont Triad International Airport located on the city’s western edge and Interstates 40 and 85 running directly through the city.
The city is home to two state universities—the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University— and three private colleges— Guilford College, Greensboro College and Bennett College.
“Greensboro offers a small-town feel but with many of the advantages of larger cities,” said Betty Smith, vice president of Cornwallis Development Co., developer of 1,200-acre Lake Jeanette. “For some reason, some newcomers anticipate finding a Mayberry RFD here, but they’re pleasantly surprised to find this is not a backwards area at all. In fact, Greensboro and the Triad are really very progressive.”
“In the past, Greensboro was almost a mill town, dominated by Burlington Industries, Guilford Mills and Cone Mills,” said Kelly Marks, Realtor with Keller Williams Realty. “But as the economy has grown and diversified, Greensboro has become much, much more than that. It’s a lot more progressive, more cosmopolitan.”
“We sell Greensboro as a cultural center offering a great quality of life,” said Andrew Simpson, marketing manager of Koury Corp., a real estate development firm currently working on Grandover, a 1,400-acre mixed-use community featuring 2,000 home sites, 2.4 million square feet of corporate office space, more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, two championship golf courses, and a European-style hotel and conference center. “Depending on what our customer is interested in, we talk about the central location, the strong economy, the road systems, schools, the relatively low crime rate, the beautiful neighborhoods,” he said. “All those are key selling points.”
“There are lots of good reasons to be here, but if a newcomer is not familiar with the area, I usually touch upon the fact that we’re close to both the mountains and the coast,” added Patricia Dowdy, sales manager for Weaver Residential Sales at Stoney Creek, a residential golf-course community east of Greensboro. “I also point out that, given the location of North Carolina, we’re not so far south that we have really hot weather, but we do still have distinctive season changes.”
Places to Live
Newcomers to Greensboro find a variety of home styles in price ranges to suit most budgets. “Greensboro offers practically any type of home anybody would want,” said Marks. “From the historic districts with their older homes, to traditional homes in the established subdivisions, to the newer areas with transitional homes, we can address most newcomers’ needs.”
“The homes are predominantly traditional and transitional,” said Smith, “but you can find just about any style. At Lake Jeanette, for example, you can find European flats, traditional single-family homes, detached cluster homes—pretty much anything you want.”
“Within Grandover, we have a good variety of town homes, cluster and courtyard homes, and regular single family homes to choose from,” said Simpson. “There’s a mixture of styles, too—European influence, French-inspired and the English style you see a lot in this area.”
“Greensboro is a good market for new houses, particularly the southwest sector, which is one of the many hot areas right now,” said Arleen McGinn, a broker with The Prudential Carolinas Realty, which handles both existing and new home sales. “You can satisfy any customer you want in that southwest sector.”
According to Marks, the steady influx of newcomers to the Piedmont Triad in general, and to Greensboro in particular, has clearly influenced home styles in recent years. “It wasn’t that long ago—six or seven years—you’d seldom find a house with a garage in Greensboro,” noted Marks. “But as people have moved here from colder climates, they’ve demanded garages. It’s the same with basements. People in the midwest and northeast grew up with basements, and that’s what they’re comfortable with. So builders are building more basements. With the market adapting to the buyers’ demands, it really has become much easier for people to find whatever they’re looking for here.”
“We’re definitely influenced by our newcomers,” added Reesa Morris, Greensboro-area sales manager for Fortis Homes. “People coming from the West want lighter-colored brick exteriors. Some really like the contemporary touches, too, and that’s harder to find. We suggest keeping the exteriors somewhat traditional to fit in with Greensboro and the south, and then on the interior, have the openness and light that go with the more contemporary or transitional styles.
“We’re building a lot more no-maintenance homes. Now that the baby boomers are older, they would like everything as convenient and maintenance-free as possible.”
Morris said many homes under construction also reflect the current preference for space over amenities. “People want more space now, as opposed to bells and whistles,” she said. “They say, ‘Forget the fancy plumbing fixtures. Give me a bonus room.’ Homebuyers anticipate they are at a better advantage investing in the square-footage now. They can always upgrade later.”
Newcomers are often surprised that some of the finest neighborhoods are close to Greensboro’s business and industrial centers. “In Greensboro, you can live in a really nice neighborhood and still be within 15 minutes of your workplace,” said Smith. “In most of the larger cities, you have to live so far away if you want a more rural setting or a larger lot. But here, it’s just not necessary to drive 45 minutes to get some space or some privacy. It’s all close by.”
Things to Do
“There’s something here for everyone,” boasted Greensboro native Anthony Posey, director of communications for the Greensboro Jaycees. A survey of area attractions supports his claim.
For sports fans, including spectators and participants of all ages, Greensboro offers a variety of opportunities for fun and excitement. The city has three professional sports teams: The Bats, a class-A, minor league baseball team affiliated with the New York Yankees, The Monarchs, an American Hockey League (AHL) hockey team, and The Dynamo, a professional soccer team based on the UNC-Greensboro campus.
College basketball is also a major sports attraction. Greensboro regularly hosts tournaments, including the Men’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament, at the 23,309- seat Greensboro Coliseum. Also within the Coliseum Complex are a Special Events Center and Mini-Arena and the War Memorial Auditorium.
Greensboro’s 18 golf courses accommodate area players, many of whom set aside their own clubs every April to watch their favorite pros compete in the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic. This year’s tournament marks the PGA’s 58th annual trip to Greensboro.
The Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department offers programs for everyone, with additional recreational opportunities provided by the YMCA, YWCA and volunteer organizations, including the Greensboro Youth Soccer Association.
Greensboro’s Jaycee Park has fully lighted football and soccer fields, tennis courts and a baseball stadium. There are also 88 city-owned tennis courts and three reservoirs for sailing, fishing and boating.
For lovers of music, art and theater, the city offers a rich cultural resources. Through City Arts of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department, art lovers can choose from musical and theatrical productions by The Livestock Players, Greensboro Children’s Theatre, Razz-Ma-Tazz Musical Revue Company, the Music Center, Greensboro Concert Band, Philharmonia of Greensboro, the Choral Society of Greensboro, Greensboro Youth Chorus and We Are One Youth Choir.
The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra offers classical and popular music concerts as well as educational programs for young listeners throughout the year.
Local and international talent combine in a yearly production staged by the Greensboro Opera Company. The Opera Company also sponsors special events and educational activities scheduled throughout the year.
For six weeks each summer, the Eastern Music Festival brings to Greensboro more than 60 concerts and symposia, including symphonic works, chamber music and recitals by professional musicians and talented students from around the world.
With more than 45 years’ experience in presenting Broadway plays and musicals, the Community Theatre of Greensboro also presents non-traditional and original works through its Studio Theatre.
Greensboro Cultural Center at Festival Park is an architectural showplace housing 25 visual and performing arts organizations, five art galleries, rehearsal halls, a sculpture garden, a restaurant and an outdoor amphitheater. The park’s art galleries include the African-American Atelier, Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art, Greensboro Artists’ League Gallery and Gift Shop, Guilford Native American Art Gallery, and Mattye Reed African Heritage Center Satellite Gallery.
The Weatherspoon Art Gallery on the UNC-G campus is nationally-recognized for its collection of 20th century American art. The permanent collection includes lithographs and bronzes by Henri Matisse.
The United Arts Council of Greensboro sponsors a variety of groups and special events each year, including City Stage Celebration in October, the African-American Arts Festival in February and the Plazzaz! summer lunch-time concerts.
The Greensboro Ballet’s traditional December production of “The Nutcracker” highlights the year for area dance lovers.
Nature lovers appreciate Greensboro’s proximity to the coast and the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the area’s natural beauty provides plenty of satisfaction right at home. The city has more than 100 parks and recreation areas, including Hagan Stone Park, with camping and nature trails. Greensboro Country Park includes the Natural Science Center, Planetarium and Zoo.
For history buffs, the Greensboro Historical Association’s city museum introduces the city’s rich heritage and recognizes many city natives. A favorite exhibit at the museum features a local civil-rights movement milestone—the 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-in.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, northwest of the city, commemorates a decisive battle fought there during the Revolutionary War. The American troops were led by Gen. Nathanael Greene, for whom the city is named.
Visitors may explore an eight-acre Revolutionary War park on the actual site of a British encampment at the Colonial Heritage Center at Tannenbaum Park. Attractions include a visitor’s center with a gallery of authentic era maps and displays depicting colonial life. The site also features the restored 1778 Hoskins House with its kitchen, blacksmith shed and barn.
Blandwood Mansion and Carriage House, now listed as a national historic landmark, opens its doors to visitors six days a week. The elegant 19th-century Italian villa, home to former North Carolina Gov. John Motley Morehead, still has many original furnishings on display.
A restored 19th-century gold refinery built of granite and surrounded by a moat, Castle McCulloch, located in nearby Jamestown, offers a catering hall and walking trails throughout its 60 wooded acres.
The Old Mill of Guilford features a working water-powered mill and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The mill, open seven days a week, sells stone-ground meal, honey, ham and North Carolina pottery and crafts in its gift shop.
“For someone new to the area, the friendliness of the people helps them feel at home quickly,” said Simpson. “Greensboro is big enough, but it’s not so big you can’t know a lot of folks. Things are a little slower paced, but the people here are friendly and welcoming.”
“People who are new to the area have a greater need to get involved and make friends,” said Linda Cecil, sales manager for Adams Farm in Greensboro. “And the community can be a built-in safety net.” Cecil said Adams Farm’s playground, pool and water slide, tennis courts, and four miles of walking and jogging trails are ideal settings for getting to know neighbors.
“Greensboro is a nice place,” said Posey. “It’s good for the up-and-coming career person, good for raising a family.” Greensboro is also home to the world’s largest Jaycees chapter. “There’s something going on every day in the Jaycees,” he added. “Our doors are open to anyone between 21 and 39 years old who wants to meet new friends and get involved in community service.”
“I think Greensboro proper, and even these outlying areas, are very receptive to newcomers,” observed McGinn. “Maybe because in the past, many of them have been the newcomers themselves. I think they’re more apt to get out and get to know their neighbors. I think Greensboro has always been friendly that way.”
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