Greensboro neighborhoods have own identity, personality

News & Record (Greensboro, NC), 2014-07-13

July 13 -- GREENSBORO -- We're a city of neighborhoods.

We've got 165, according to no less an expert than the United States government . And there are dozens more "unofficial" ones.

So it goes for 104 square miles -- from Adams Farm to Wynnmere, with dozens of Hills and Heights, Lakes and Acres in between.

Live here long enough, and you can sum up a neighborhood in one smart phrase.

Highland Park ? Funny. All the streets are named after Ivy League schools.

Willow Oaks ? Big changes. They've blended subsidized apartments with upper middle-class bungalows.

Sedgefield? Oooh, yeah. Fancy. And they're playing the golf tournament there again after all these years.

Every neighborhood has a "thing."

For some, it's a celebration -- think Kirkwood and a certain patriotic parade.

For others, it's a history of activism, of fighting City Hall to protect the neighborhood's character. Or in the case of Nealtown Farms , near the White Street Landfill , to protect the health of its residents.

And in some cases -- yes, we're talking about you, Westerwood and Lake Daniel -- the "thing" involves confusion about the neighborhood's borders.

" Lake Daniel is not part of Westerwood," said former News & Record reporter Jim Schlosser , an expert on the city's neighborhoods past and present.

"It's on the opposite side of Benjamin Parkway , across from Grimsley High School , extending to the waterworks on Battleground."

Sometimes, though, that "thing" is hard to define. It's a feeling you get, knowing you've found the space in the world where you feel most comfortable.

Margene Patrick said she found it in Starmount -- specifically Starmount Farms west of downtown. She said she likes being near another of Greensboro's distinguishing features: parks.

"I am a block away from the Bog Garden. I can walk the beautiful decks over the marsh areas and visit a man-made waterfall in less than five minutes.

"I can view all of the beautiful flowers, walkways and streams at the Tanger Bicentennial Gardens ."

Ian Beatty found that "thing" in College Hill, a neighborhood of 3,700 near UNCG where he has lived since March 2011 . He says he values "the diverse, lively mix of residents."

"I've got university faculty, students, tradesmen, small-business owners, musicians and innkeepers all living within a block of me," he said.

Know what all that's called? Home.

A part of something

It is July 4 , almost 5 o'clock. Close to the hottest part of the day.

Not that it matters to the kids -- scores of them, clad in red-white-and-blue outfits, peddling bicycles that are streaming red-white-and-blue crepe paper.

Behind them, hovering over the street, is an American flag that measures 60 by 40. Feet.

This is the annual Kirkwood Parade, a Fourth of July tradition since 1947. You'll find it in a neighborhood just off Cornwallis and Lawndale drives.

Around 5 p.m. , people pour out of their houses, then line streets called Independence Road , Colonial Avenue , Liberty Drive .

It's just one neighborhood known for its celebrations.

Every "float" is unique. This year, one family filled a flat-bed trailer with patio furniture, creating a mobile picnic tableaux.

Another somehow hitched a hot tub to their rig, filled it with soap bubbles and children, then hauled it down the street.

This is Kirkwood's "thing."

On the other side of town is Warnersville, sandwiched between Freeman Mill Road and Lee Street . This community was founded after the Civil War, intended for newly freed slaves.

Former residents still come back -- come home -- for Warnersville's reunions.

The neighborhood's landmark, J.C. Price School , no longer exists. But its graduates include none other than Jibreel Khazan (formerly Ezell Blair Jr .), one of four N.C. A&T students who started the civil rights sit-ins at Woolworth's in downtown Greensboro .

Glenwood takes up about a half-mile south of Lee Street , west of Freeman Mill Road , east of Chapman Street and north of Murrayhill Road . It's where the city's first Neighborhood Watch program began and where you still will find residents today holding potluck dinners and community yard sales.

It's a way to make Greensboro -- population 277,000 -- seem that much cozier.

"Maybe people identify with neighborhoods in Greensboro because they want to be part of something smaller and more identifiable," Schlosser said.

"Also, neighborhoods today tend to have associations, even newsletters, that stress identity."

Over in Lindley Park , they even have their own newspaper. The Gazette. Founded, reported and produced by neighborhood kids.

You might notice their newspaper box the next time you're eating dinner at Elam and Walker avenues.

Now that's a "thing."

Protests with picnics

Oh, but Greensboro's neighborhoods do more than stage picnics and parades.

The city of Greensboro's Planning Department has created seven neighborhood redevelopment plans, each guided by input from neighborhood leaders.

Residents also will mobilize, and mobilize fast, when something threatens their sense of community and their sense of home.

Last year, upper middle-class neighborhoods near Friendly Shopping Center -- Hamilton Forest , Starmount and others -- joined to block a Trader Joe's grocery store from moving in.

Their protests were loud enough that the developer nixed the project.

In 1995, residents of predominantly black Nealtown Farms sued the city. The lawsuit called plans to open a new part of the White Street Landfill there "environmental racism."

The suit asked for cash damages for diminished property value, threats to health and well-being and aggravation stemming from increased noise, noxious odors, litter, rodents, flies and truck traffic.

The tiny neighborhood, east of Phillips Avenue and north of Huffine Mill Road , settled when the city agreed to buy houses that residents couldn't sell.

Political careers often are born from such localized movements.

It's how Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan got her start.

In 1997, she led an effort by the Jefferson Gardens neighborhood to curtail development.

The former Jefferson-Pilot insurance company wanted to develop a 414-acre tract it owned at New Garden Road and Bryan Boulevard .

It would have been too much development too close to established homes and wooded areas, Vaughan said. "I think we all just felt, 'We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore.'"

Vaughan, with the help of other nearby neighborhood associations, convinced Jefferson-Pilot to modify the plan to include less commercial development.

And with that a political career was born.

"It kind of woke up something in me," Vaughan said.

A special place

We hear you, you naysayers, you nattering nabobs of neighborhoods, such as you are.

What's so special about Greensboro ? Don't all cities define themselves by neighborhoods?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But you'd be hard pressed to find a city with as many interesting, unique and downright eccentric neighborhoods as Greensboro .

In the coming months, the News & Record will acquaint you with some of them.

You might discover new ones, such as Pennydale, a small neighborhood off High Point Road just south of Interstate 40 .

Some neighborhoods, such as Glenwood , might already be in the news for fighting development.

All of them have a "thing," something that makes that area special, like Hamilton Forest is for longtime resident Betty Tarantelli .

"I have lived here as a young mom, happy wife and now as a retired special-education teacher and a widow," she said. "My neighbors became family.

"We shared all of life's events, graduations, weddings, births, and sad times became blessings through the kind support of wonderful caring neighbors."

Hamilton Forest is Betty Tarantelli's home.

We're looking forward to learning more about yours.

Contact Margaret Moffett at (336) 373-7031.


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