SmART Initiative: Downtown Greenway
The Downtown Greenway in Greensboro.
Photo courtesy of Action Greensboro.
The Downtown Greenway is a four-mile urban trail that will encircle and define Greensboro’s downtown and when completed will be the only one of its kind in the state. Construction began in 2009 after eight years of study and planning. Public art is a prominent part of the project and will include four major thematic cornerstone commissions — Motion (education/transportation), Tradition (history), Innovation (entrepreneurship/textiles) and Freedom (civil rights). In addition there will be 12 artist-designed benches, a renovated railroad underpass, a planned street art project, and an array of planned smaller-scale projects.
A public/private partnership between the City of Greensboro and Action Greensboro, the Greenway is one of three major improvements identified as a part of the Center City Master Plan commissioned in 2001. The already completed components, Center City Park and NewBridge Bank Ballpark, have exceeded expectations for bringing vibrancy and growth to downtown.
Action Greensboro is a not-for-profit organization formed in 2001 in response to the changing economy in Greensboro and the Piedmont region. Its operating expenses are underwritten by seven Greensboro foundations and it spearheads the planning and fundraising for the Greenway project. Early donations of $4.5 million from the foundations leveraged the passage of a $134 million Street Improvement Bond Package including $7 million specifically for the Downtown Greenway.
Subsequent funding includes $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Mayor’s Institute on City Design program and federal transportation funds in excess of $3.5 million. With the launch of a Major Gifts Campaign to raise the final $2.5 million in private funding, the project is well on its way, and the remaining public funds appear within reach.
Another interesting Greensboro organization is the Public Art Endowment which is funded by local citizens in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. It helps provide a citywide context for public art by exhibiting temporarily loaned artworks at various sites, with a longer term goal to commission permanent works of art to be dedicated to the City of Greensboro. Still another lively and unique organization is Elsewhere Artists Collaborative, a local artist residency program and living museum which is a partner in the street art project.
Public art and cultural programming are key components of a broader vision for environmental sustainability, livability, increased pedestrian and bicycle activity, and arts-driven economic development. The Downtown Greenway, with its innovative combination of environmental and arts oriented design, offers an important model for arts driven economic development in North Carolina.