At long last, there’s an end in sight for construction of Greensboro’s Downtown Greenway, a project that began nearly 22 years ago.
The city council voted Sept. 19 to approve a $14.95 million contract with Yates Construction Co. for the fourth mile — called the “western branch” of the greenway, from Spring Garden Street to Smith Street, with an extension north to Hill Street. Construction is set to begin at the end of this year or in early 2024. The expected completion date on the contract is June 2025.
The greenway creates a loop around the heart of downtown and connects other trails, businesses, universities and neighborhoods. It’s about 12 feet wide with buffers between the trails and roadways, and features enhanced landscaping and lighting, benches, bicycle racks, drinking fountains, trash and recycling receptacles, and public art.
All told, investment in the project now totals more than $50 million, according to Dabney Sanders, the Downtown Greenway project manager for Action Greensboro. The latter is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing economic vitality and life in Greensboro.
The greenway has been lauded by the UNC Institute for Government as a connector for historically marginalized communities, natural parks, and new businesses.
Greensboro’s downtown greenway follows the model of one of the most successful greenway projects in U.S. history, the Atlanta Beltline, which brought significant economic investment and development to that city.
So far, Greensboro’s downtown greenway has connected some of the city’s historically Black neighborhoods to Greensboro parks. Sanders said the project dramatically changed the appearance of Murrow Boulevard — which connects to historically Black neighborhoods on the east side of the city — from a six-lane divided highway with no landscaping into a roadway with nearby a 12-foot wide greenway, enhanced landscaping, a protected bike lane, and lots of trees.
The downtown greenway has also helped attract businesses, particularly in the lower Fisher park (Lo-Fi) area, on the north side of the city.
Action Greensboro projects $765 million so far in completed and planned investments related to the Downtown Greenway.
Deep Roots Market, Greensboro’s downtown co-op grocery store, cited the greenway as a contributing factor in its decision to move to its current location on North Eugene Sreet. The greenway also attracted Joymongers Brewing Co., Sanders said.
“Businesses want to be located near greenways,” Sanders said. “Individuals and their companies want that kind of access for people.”
The downtown greenway also was a part of the success of Union Square, a state of the art facility for education of nurses and local students. The 7-acre joint development between UNCG, Cone Health, Guilford Technical Community College, and NC A&T is situated right next to the greenway.
When asked about the project’s more than 20-year construction period, Sanders said that the time needed is “in the ballpark” of greenway projects in other cities.