By Nicholas Bainbridge // News Editor
High Point University has undergone a tremendous amount of growth in the past decade, both in terms of academics and in physical changes on campus. However, it is not the only part of the city that is being developed. There has been a recent effort to revitalize downtown High Point in order to create a space that fosters a greater sense of community.
Forward High Point is a nonprofit organization made up of people who are eager to make a difference in their city. For the past couple of years, the group has been working with influential members of the city to bring new life to the city of High Point.
The city of High Point is well known for its annual furniture market that draws attention from all over the globe, but the members of Forward High Point do not think that this is enough for a city to truly thrive.
According to Ray Gibbs, the executive director of Forward High Point, the primary objective of the organization is to “Make downtown a place that operates 365 days a year.”
Since beginning its initiative to revitalize the downtown area in February of 2015, Forward High Point has developed several projects for the city. One of the organization’s most ambitious additions to High Point is the Catalyst Project, a $35 million dollar multi-use sports stadium that will be the home base for an Atlantic League baseball team.
While the primary purpose of the structure is for baseball, the stadium will be used for other sports including soccer, football and lacrosse. It will also be able to seat 7,500 people for concerts and other events.
According to Sims Hinds, the vice chairman of Forward High Point Board of Directors, the goal of the revitalization is to give the citizens of High Point a place to come together as a community.
“The city doesn’t have a gathering place,” said Hinds. “Although we do have the furniture market, there is nothing going on in downtown High Point during the other 50 weeks of the year. We hope this stadium can be a place for everyone.”
With the support of the city of High Point, the stadium is on schedule to open for its first game during the spring of 2019.
As part of the revitalization, HPU President Nido Qubein pledged to raise private funds to make several other additions to the city centered around the stadium, including a children’s museum, an event center and an interactive park.
In order to fund these extra projects, Forward High Point has joined forced with prominent figures in the High Point community, including Qubein, to strengthen their efforts for an improved city.
“Universities are places for innovation and creativity, and we have all these resources. Amalgamate that with a little bit of money, and universities could really make a difference,” said Qubein.
Qubein has used his business skills to help the city of High Point raise over $100 million dollars in private donations to help revitalize the city.
Downtown revitalization is not Forward High Point’s only endeavor. The group has also been working on expanding the High Point Public Library. The goal is to turn the library into a landmark where citizens can gather, just like the upcoming sports stadium will be.
The existing part of the structure will remain, and new extensions will be added that give people a place to gather that fosters learning and a love of books. The goal is to create a pleasant and communal atmosphere with additions including a clock tower, butterfly garden, picnic area and an outdoor music area. There will also be a new farmer’s market added near the Main Street entrance with the goal of encouraging healthy eating and consuming locally sourced products.
As part of the efforts to expand the High Point Public Library, available parking space will also be greatly expanded, construction of which is currently underway. This will allow more people to come to the library at once for special events and provide space for food trucks. There are even plans to provide an electric car charging station.
Downtown revitalization and the Library Project are only two of the efforts taking place in downtown High Point. Forward High Point is working on a variety of smaller events and festivals to bring the community together. The changes coming to downtown High Point are certain to have an immense impact of the daily lives of its citizens.