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Greensboro Downtown University District


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Downtown advocates and educational leaders are taking advantage of the colleges and universities that border downtown by proposing a downtown university district. So far its just a concept and not an official plan but it could include a building or a small campus where all of the city's colleges and universities would collaborate. Cone Health of Greensboro would also be involved. This would be different from the NC A&T and UNCG joint research park on the east side of town. I created a few drawings below showing where this university district could go. I placed the district in the southwest quadrant of downtown bordering the greenway. I included an architecture school because the educational community is trying to lure an architectural school to Greensboro. It would be the third school in North Carolina. NC State in Raleigh and UNC Charlotte both have architectural design programs. An architecture school in Greensboro would compliment UNC Greensboro's interior architecture program as well as NC A&T's architectural engineering program. Students from the different colleges can collaborate on one project. A&T students would work on the architectural engineering while UNCG students would work on the interior architecture. Students at the joint architecture school would come up with the exterior design.


I chose this strategic location off of Lee Street because its just a few blocks east of UNCG expansion projects (Spartan Village). It would also tie in with Greensboro College expansion site and the South Elm/Lee Street development which will include educational facilities, residential, a hotel, international market, retail and civic space. In addition, Gateway University Research Park is also on Lee Street about 3 miles east of downtown so it would be on the same corridor.

My concept includes an art park and a small amphitheater near the architecture school as well as signature bridge sculpture over the Eugene Street bridge. Since the architecture school would be a joint school, I would call it the University of North Carolina School of Architecture. Architecture students could use the art park for outdoor class assignments.





students can walk or ride a bike on the greenway between the developments





(mixed-use, retail, restaurants, student housing) UNCG Spartan Village going up 4 blocks west of the site I proposed for the joint university campus/architecture school. Spartan Village would be an extension of the downtown university district.







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Mayor Robbie Perkins loved my ideas. He actually called me and he passed the concepts over to local architect Ken Mayer and former city manager Ed Kitchen who are both involved with the University District plan. They both thought the concepts were very interesting.  I guess we'll see where this goes.

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Thanks DCB. I agree and I am impressed with Spartan Village. It is definitely an improvement along Lee Street.


I think long range planning is important if this downtown university district is to become a success. Greensboro will be doing something totally unique in our state with this campus. The across the board collaboration in a number of educational fields (not just research) and the partnership with Cone Health and the business community will lead to new industry and businesses in Greensboro. Combine this with Gateway University Research Park and we really have something dynamic going on here.


Greensboro is looking at Spokane, Washington's downtown university district for inspiration for its planned university district. Its like an urban research park plus a lot more.



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breaking news....one of the Spartan Village buildings under construction is on fire. Nobody was hurt but this disaster will set back the opening. They may have to level this building all together and start all over. 70 firefighters and 18 firetrucks responded.



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first phase of the downtown university campus is set to open in fall of 2016.....there are a lot of big things planning to open up downtown around that time, including two hotels, indoor carousel, new downtown park and performing arts center.



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announcement on campus site will be tomorrow. One thing the article mentions that I was not aware of is that High Point University is looking to build its pharmacy school in downtown Greensboro. Looks like Greensboro found a loop hole in getting a downtown pharmacy school. The UNC board rejected UNCG's plans for a downtown pharmacy school, mainly because it would be too close to UNC Chapel Hill's program. However High Point University is not a part of the UNC system. It would be the second university outside of Greensboro to open a school downtown and it would mean that High Point University would collaborate and do research with the rest of Greensboro's colleges and universitie in the district. Elon University has its school of law in downtown Greensboro. Eventually the campus will expand into an entire downtown university district, connect with UNCG's projects on lee St (Gate City Boulevard) and will likely border the greenway loop. Part of that district is already becoming a reality. Bordering the southwest section of the downtown greenway loop is the construction of a new university residential development on the edge of downtown. The greenway will be the perfect pedestrian/biking route for college students from UNCG, Greensboro College, NC A&T and Bennett College, all of which border or is in close proximity to the greenway. I think this helps Greensboro stand out from the other large cities in NC. It's certainly unique and hasn't been done this way in any North Carolina city. Ultimately the University district will lead to start up businesses downtown.



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Its official, The South Elm/Lee Street site is chose for the downtown joint university campus.



"Organizers see the campus as an anchor for further development south of Lee Street. Another 6 acres of vacant land adjoins the proposed campus to the south and west. The South Elm Development Group — hired by the city to transform the site has big plans for it.
Bob Chapman, one of the group’s principals, said that once the campus is open, the group will build a 93,000-square-foot office and shopping building, a 150-room hotel and conference center, two apartment buildings with 156 units, and two parking decks."



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This is a very interesting project overview by a downtown Greensboro based blogger/property owner.




This blogger was part of the citizen advisory board for this project, and as stated in the first article has attended each and every meeting during the selection process.

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The planned downtown university campus at South Elm and Lee Streets (Gate City Blvd) will be called Union Square Campus.


Its first phase will focus on nursing education and could feature a simulated surgery lab to train doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.



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It appears from this High Point Enterprise article that Greensboro wasn't the only option for High Point University's pharmacy school. It also had the opportunity to go into the Innovation Quarter in Downtown Winston-Salem as well. I'm sure with all the energy that is emanating from that center city research park, that it was pretty tempting for Mr. Qubein to align his university with the possibilities for collaboration among the many entities that are a part of the park. But I have to admire Mr. Qubein for his loyalty to his home city and looking to make it work in High Point. Here's an excerpt from the news article:

Qubein said he never threatened to build the pharmacy school outside the city.
“What happened is that, in the city of Greensboro, we were offered an opportunity to partner with someone and to have access to 40-plus acres of land,” he said. “Wake Forest University has a medical campus in downtown Winston-Salem, and they approached us and said, ‘We would love to welcome you.’ What would you do?”
HPU explored these possibilities, but settled on the Montlieu Avenue site.


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Here are some new renderings of the planned Union Square Campus which will be the first phase of the downtown university district. Construction on the first building will begin early next year. UNC Greensboro, NC A&T State, Greensboro College, Bennett College, Guilford College, GTCC and Cone Health will collaborate at the campus. Located at the intersection of South Elm Street and Lee St, Lee St will be renamed Gate City Boulevard by the time this opens.



The buildings not colored will be residential. The bottom tree lined corridor in the first rendering will be a part of the southern downtown greenway.





The yellow building is the hotel






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While the first phase of the downtown Union Square campus is already open, planning has already started on the second phase. The first phased focuses on healthcare and research with a partnership with the areas colleges and Cone Health. The second phase will focus on cybersecurity and product development/research in the second building and the partnership will be with companies instead of the schools. 

"Business leaders are extremely interested in cybersecurity, Bryant said, because many companies have to protect enormous customer databases from hackers and other online threats. Business leaders say they’re having trouble hiring enough people for information security roles.

The second theme, design, will focus on innovation and the creation of new products. Design is complementary to the cybersecurity theme, Bryant said, because much of it is done electronically and needs to be kept confidential."


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