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waterway and waterfall planned for downtown

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Keep in mind this is not the same one mile waterway thats planned along the rail road tracks in downtown Greensboro. This will be another waterway in the Old Greensborough historic district ofo of Elm Street.

City stream plan flowing ahead


By Jim Schlosser Staff Writer

News & Record

Cynics chortled a few years ago when downtown boosters said Greensboro's central business district needed a river. The boosters had returned from tours of Chattanooga, Tenn., Columbus, Ga., and other cities with rivers running through thriving downtowns.

Milton Kern wasn't laughing. And soon, he'll be splashing.

The Greensboro contractor intends to provide the city with its long-wanted waterway.

It will be in the same 200 block of South Elm Street where Kern and his wife, Debby, have already pumped plenty of money into rehabilitating decaying buildings and creating a decorative alley.

Kern plans on stocking the stream with catfish and koi, a brightly colored Japanese carp kin to goldfish.

Earlier this week, Kern and his son-in-law, Erik Beerbower, a sculptor who specializes in fountains and decorative ponds, stepped off the sidewalk across from the restored Kress Building and climbed down a ladder into what looks like a sunken alley between Elm Street News & Video and what will soon be the Next Door Tavern. The space is about 6 feet wide and extends about 100 feet back from the sidewalk.

The passage will serve as the waterway's bed and banks.

Until a few months ago, downtown's most narrow building was squeezed into the space. Through the years, the building housed a jewelry store and an art shop. Customers loved reaching out with both arms and touching the opposite walls.

Kern tore the building down, intending to create a patio for Next Door Tavern, which is to open next week. But structural and building-code questions arose, so the patio was scratched.

Kern and Beerbower decided the space would be ideal for a decorative stream with a waterfall.

Water would tumble from the fall and flow about 75 feet to a holding area where a pipe would recirculate it through the passage.

Pedestrians will admire the stream, actually a fountain, from the sidewalk above, looking through an iron gate that Beerbower has crafted in his studio on Lyndon Street. The gate will keep anyone from taking a dive.

"We want it to look as natural and old as the buildings around it,'' he said of the fountain.

The space has seen daylight before, judging from sealed and unsealed windows along the walls of the building that flank its sides.

In one of the window recesses, Kern and Beerbower found a pint whiskey bottle that may have lubricated a 19th century town drunk.

A beautifully crafted stone wall, built no telling how many years ago, stands at one end of the passage. It seems to be holding up the sidewalk above.

According to Kern's philosophy for downtown renewal, a single major project -- a baseball stadium, for instance -- won't be the panacea to revive the city's center. Smaller endeavors are essential, too. Big and small combine to make an inviting core.

An example of a small gesture is the alley Kern made after tearing down a building within the 200 block between Annie Marie's home decor and gift store and Chakras spa and beauty shop. Balconies of apartments above Annie Marie's overlook the alley. Trees grow in planters. At the end of the alley, a bakery sells goodies, which customers can eat from benches against the walls.

Kerns envisions his faux falls being a work of art "and a conversation piece.''

"It'll be fun,'' said Beerbower, who created a fountain in Chakras and the New Garden Friends School on the Guilford College campus. "That's all it's supposed to be, fun.''

He says it'll be early summer before the water flows. He's got to coat the passage with a rubber substance to prevent water from leaking into a storm sewer beneath it.

"There is one thing about water,'' Beerbower says. "You can't rush it.''

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Looks like the city of Greensboro has gotten people very serious about revitalization. Any attraction will benefit the city, and a waterfall/waterway will certainly bring more people to the center. Two thumbs up.

By the way, my friend who lived in Greensboro (now in Raleigh) saw your Southside pics and really liked them. I thought you might like to know :)

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Sounds nice !

We have plans here to add three or four water features downtown.

Granted, what we're doing is on a much smaller scale, but

I like the current trend toward adding water to the center city.

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Actually, there are ideas about adding something like that in Raleigh, but the city wants to focus on building infrastructure first. I agree with their policy, as I am sure we'll do better if we create a stronger momentum before we spend on such a great project. Nevertheless, it would be lovely and I am sure that Raleigh can have such attraction when the city's finances improve a little. Something like this would work well on the South-West side, near the future Convention Center, due to the exisitng landscape. I wonder how much work will Greensboro need to do in order to accommodate this project. Does the existing landscape help?

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Yes the exisiting landscape helps. Actually this waterway project by Milton Kern is more like a 6 foot wide by 75-100 foot long stream and not like a long canal. because the alley is already sunkin, all that would need to really happen is to add seal the bottom with rubber to prevent water from leaking, add the pumping system and the walls on the building would have to be painted. Then by summer it can be filled up with water and then there will be a waterfall near Elm Street. The final touches would be to add the fish. This is not a huge undertaking like the waterway thats proposed along the railroad tracks in downtown Greensboro. But it will be a unique water feature. For some reason water seems to attract people and hopefully we'll see a series of water features in downtown Greensboro.

I think it would be great if Raleigh did something similar. Maybe a private investor will step up, it can happen in Raleigh sooner.

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Are you getting the feeling that as North Carolina's cities continue their stellar improvement, it's going to get to the point where anyone who truly appreciates urban places is going to have to maintain a home in every NC city with more than 30,000 residents?

I mean, Asheville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Elizabeth City, Hickory, Greensboro -- hell even Fayetteville and Gastonia are improving!

It's getting to where you can't go anywhere in this state without finding a superb urban setting! ... And that's what is known as a "delightful dilemma," I'd say.


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