Gate City Boulevard

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Word on the (ahem) street is that High Point Road and Lee Street in Greensboro will become something called “Gate City Boulevard” starting this summer. This does not thrill me, as I’m generally not in favor of changing longtime street names in cities just on principle. I’m especially unimpressed when there’s no good reason for the change (like, say, to honor a historic individual or event) or to make navigation easier. This change will do neither.

I think this post from six years ago still holds up pretty well with respect to changes on the main drag of my old (and once again current) neighborhood. I still say High Point Road could stand a helping hand, but all in all, it’s a street that works well for its surrounding area and I’m not in favor of some grand scheme that will ultimately fail by trying to transform it into something it’s not. High Point Road is a working class boulevard serving an extremely diverse population from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds. It’s never going to be an upscale retail strip, no matter how many trees you plant on it. I’m all for adding desperately-needed sidewalks, and I’m fine with some cosmetic upgrades, but I don’t want to see the city lose sight of the fact that High Point Road is not some abandoned ghetto strip. It’s a street where most storefronts are occupied by businesses that employ people and serve the area. Any changes need to take these current occupants into account.

But back to the whole renaming thing. Greensboro has generally been kind of anal about renaming streets to serve navigational goals (i.e. not having streets change names every few blocks like in Charlotte). Your urban spatial history lesson for the day:

  • The most ridiculous example is the extension of Elm Street south of its form intersection with Eugene. The two streets did not intersect until Eugene was extended out from downtown in the early 1970s, at which point the city felt compelled to rename five or six miles of Elm Street south of the fork “Elm-Eugene Street.”
  • Holden Road used to run only from Friendly Avenue to where Wendover Avenue is today. The thoroughfare now known as Holden Road consists of new roadway plus chunks of what used to be Oakland Avenue, Pinecroft Road, and Osborne Road.
  • Friendly Avenue is made up of what use to be known as Gaston Street (downtown), part of Madison Avenue (Sunset Hills and Westerwood), and Friendly Road (from Aycock Street west).
  • Church Street downtown south of Summit Avenue used to be known as Forbis Street, while Summit Avenue from Elm to Forbis used to be called Church Street. Confused?
  • Randleman Road was originally Ashe Street within the city limits, and Ashe Street originally ran all the way downtown, ending along what is now called Federal Place.
  • Most of Merritt Drive was originally known as Pomona Road. the part that was actually in Pomona had another name, whose name escapes me now.
  • United Street was originally the westernmost of Oakland Avenue until the connection was broken by Wendover Avenue and the new Holden Road.
  • Yanceyville Street south of Wendover (through the Aycock neighborhood and by the old stadium) was called Bagley Street.
  • Murrow Boulevard was formerly part of Pearson and Percy Streets.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive was originally called Asheboro Street.
  • Vandalia Road contains pieces of what used to be Rocky Knoll Road and Freeman Mill Road. Creek Ridge Road and Branderwood Drive also have chunks of what used to be Freeman Mill Road.

I’m sure I’m missing a few. Feel free to chime in. And if you’re interested in seeing old maps of the city, this link should be fun for you.

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