Greensboro's Downtown Greenway: Successful Revitalization through Active Transportation

Greensboro, NC

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


The City of Greensboro's Downtown experienced a period of disinvestment during the latter half of the 20th Century. Recent revitalization efforts have prompted an increase in businesses and cultural amenities in the downtown area. The Downtown Greenway project seeks to build on downtown revitalization, economic development, and urban livability efforts by promoting active living, encouraging alternative transportation, linking diverse neighborhoods, and showcasing the history of Greensboro's Downtown and the surrounding areas.


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The Downtown Greenway was first conceived as part of the Center City Master Plan in 2001 and was unanimously recognized by the Greensboro Bicentennial Commission as their feature project to commemorate and provide a record of the city's 200th birthday celebration in 2008. The 4 mile loop, which was under construction in 2011, will serve as a hub for trails extending in all directions from Greensboro's downtown (see map). While establishing a link between existing trails and neighborhoods was an important factor, the route was also established based on the availability and usage of nearby land parcels. In particular, rail line corridors were identified as underused parcels ready for redevelopment; a conclusion supported by public input. Public input also dictated which neighborhood linkages were most important, while future traffic studies and an iterative design process directed the route's course along the east side of downtown (Murrow Boulevard) and on the northern leg of the Greenway, respectively. As an important trail connection, the Downtown Greenway will provide a transportation solution for accessing downtown, a place for public art, public park space, and an important link between socially diverse neighborhoods.


In terms of financing the construction of the Greenway Project, the estimated cost is $26 million, with funds coming from a variety of sources in a true public-private partnership. Funds will come from federal and state grants, local foundations, transportation bond allocations, and private and business contributions. A streets improvement referendum was successfully approved on November 4, 2008, which released some transportation bond allocations for the greenway. These bonds, which allocated $7 million to the Greenway project, will be instrumental in the success of the greenway.

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In order to solicit public opinion regarding the Downtown Greenway project, a number of design charettes and informational meetings were held with community stakeholders, civic and governmental organizations, neighborhoods, and local leaders. As this project has far-reaching effects for many neighborhoods surrounding downtown as well as for local universities, arts councils, governmental bodies, active living groups, and others, these organizations were included in the community meetings and have become involved in the process. Specifically, neighborhood meetings were held in all of the neighborhoods adjacent to the Greenway, presenting various design alternatives and providing a survey to solicit feedback from neighborhood residents. Arts Councils, active living groups, and local universities have been involved in fund-raising initiatives and, in the case of Greensboro College, have allowed the Downtown Greenway to be built on College property. They have also served in advisory roles on project committees. Governmental bodies, such as the Greensboro Department of Transportation, the Police Department, and Parks and Recreation, have also been involved in the design and implementation of the Greenway with their presence on the Oversight and Technical Greenway Committees.

The support of the neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed greenway route was of primary importance in starting the greenway project. The neighborhoods that surround Greensboro's downtown are typically historic, but vary greatly in terms of demographic make-up. Coordinating with neighborhood associations and local leaders as well as ensuring that the project coordinators are accessible to individual citizens created an environment of cooperation and collaboration around the project. By presenting to the Neighborhood Congress in Greensboro, Action Greensboro, the lead agency on the Downtown Greenway project, provided a forum for discussion of the Downtown Greenway initiative and identified neighborhood leaders. Interested neighborhood residents and citizens were invited to participate in design charettes and informational meetings. The inclusion of a Greensboro Council Member and numerous volunteers on the Downtown Greenway Steering Committee also provided avenues for further public input.

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From the project's inception, public art was an area of focus, both to highlight the history of the places around the greenway and also to make the trail into a destination. One of the consultants on the project, CooperCarry, suggested creating four "cornerstones" along the Greenway, an idea that was well received by the Downtown Greenway Oversight Committee. The first step in this process was to call a meeting of North Carolina artists to determine the best way to complete the cornerstones. As particularly significant art installations, an RFQ (Request for Quotation) was released on a national scale to commission the first cornerstone. Following a period of review, the proposals were evaluated by a selection panel composed of art professionals, city staff, and Action Greensboro volunteers and a winner was selected. The winning cornerstone is currently being fabricated (see image).

For the 12 art benches that will be located along the Downtown Greenway, local North Carolina artists, selected through a similar design process involving the North Carolina Arts Foundation, will create the pieces for installation. All of the artists and, in particular, the cornerstone artists, were encouraged to visit Greensboro and research the area's history in order to create a meaningful art installation on the Greenway.


The Downtown Greenway Small Phase 1 has been constructed and anecdotal evidence suggests that it has seen high levels of usage and community support. Three pieces of public art have been installed on this section, including a functional bicycle rack created by a local artist using recycled bicycle parts, a bench reflecting the neighborhood history and values, and a commemorative piece reflecting on the history of the neighborhood.

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Public meetings were held to generate discourse regarding the second phase of construction on the Greenway in late 2009 and early 2010. These meetings, as mentioned before, were very successful and solicited hundreds of comments from interested citizens and stakeholders, particularly with regard to the provision of space for parks and development, site furnishings, and art installations. Action Greensboro used these comments to direct their investment and ensure that those aspects found to be of particular importance to the public receive significant consideration. Final design and construction drawings were underway on Phase 2 in early 2011 with especial respect to an at-grade railroad crossing. Special signage has been created to distinguish the Downtown Greenway from other pedestrian bicycle paths, while the twelve foot path width identifies the facility as different from other Greenways in Greensboro. In conjunction with the Greensboro and North Carolina Departments of Transportation, pedestrian amenities have been designed for use along the Greenway, including new stoplights, pedestrian refuge islands, and pedestrian countdown signals.

Construction of Phase 1a and design work on the remaining segments of Phase 1 began in early 2010. A public meeting regarding Phase 3 was held on July 29th of 2010 and design work has just begun on that section. Phase 4 is the western leg of the 4 mile loop and will be built on what is now an active rail line. Abandonment of that line is expected in the next few years and the federal railbanking legislation will be used to convert the land from rails to trails. This will likely be the final phase of the Downtown Greenway to be completed. The entire downtown loop will be completed between 2015 and 2020, depending on the bond allocation schedule.


Dabney Sanders
Project Manager, Downtown Greenway
Action Greensboro
Greensboro, NC 27401


Action Greensboro. (2010) Project History. Retrieved from

Action Greensboro. (2010) Schedule and Funding. Retrieved from

Action Greensboro. (2010) Latest News. Retrieved from

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Filed in: Community Problems and Solutions, Promoting Walking and Bicycling, Case Studies

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