Monday, August 29, 2011

Urban Neighborhood Issue:
Older Commercial Areas

Business improved through the RUCA program

Older commercial areas are vital to the health of surrounding residential areas throughout the Urban Neighborhoods. As with housing, aging commercial areas and structures have numerous problems due to age and decline. Some of the older commercial nodes scattered throughout older neighborhoods no longer offer basic day-to-day services and retail for local residents. Many “mom and pop” businesses have been replaced by big box stores and large grocery chains which are less conveniently located. Other urban shopping areas, such as Thruway, have been maintained and are doing well, even in a slow economy.

The City has a number of programs aimed at improving these older commercial areas including loan funds, building rehabilitation programs and business assistance programs. Like the housing rehab programs, many of these are focused in the NRSA. Many smaller, older commercial areas are unsightly due to the lack of appearance requirements that existed when they were constructed. Older areas are lacking streetyards (landscaping between streets and parking lots), buffering (vegetation or fencing) to block the view of businesses from adjacent houses, landscaping within parking lots, screening of grease traps and dumpsters, updated facades, asphalting and striping of parking lots and modern signage. To better combat the poor appearance and physical decline in older commercial areas, the City created the Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas (RUCA) program within GMA 2. A total of 33 potential RUCA areas were inventoried and then divided in three “tiers” based on their physical conditions.

Three areas were funded in the first round of RUCA funding. Additional areas are being considered in the second round of funding. In addition to City efforts, a number of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) have also been hard at work to improve investments in older neighborhoods.

Another tool for dealing with blighted businesses was recently approved by the Winston-Salem City Council. The City now has the authority to condemn and demolish nonresidential buildings that are dilapidated and can be considered dangerous.

The Growth Management Plan Map in Chapter 3 show Activity Centers and Primary Corridors throughout the Urban Neighborhoods. The most intensive future commercial and residential uses are recommended for these areas (see page 103 for more details on Activity Centers and Corridors).

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