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Greensboro council approves plan to increase police salaries and to sell land near Union Square Campus
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Greensboro council approves plan to increase police salaries and to sell land near Union Square Campus

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GREENSBORO — The Greensboro City Council has asked its staff to work toward raising police officer salaries as the city struggles to fight a rising homicide and violent crime rate.

The starting salary for police recruits in Greensboro is currently $38,987.

A city study suggests that recruits often are lured to other cities by higher salaries and incentives that can boost their income.

Greensboro’s police department already has 40 open positions for sworn officers and the study, released last month, suggests that the police department add 16 additional sworn officers.

City officials have suggested that in the first phase of a salary adjustment program that starting salaries be increased to $40,212. It would also raise the salaries of many current officers to $41,170.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night on a motion by Councilman Justin Outling to authorize raising salaries for sworn officers beginning in the next budget year. That starts July 1st.

Homicides are at a record level, and officials are grasping for ways to stem the tide of violence.

It’s not easy to find people who want to be police officers. That’s but one observation from the city’s Budget & Evaluation Department in its recent study, part of a more complex study of police staffing that will be available in the coming weeks.

The report reaffirms what is starting to become obvious across the country: A career in law enforcement isn’t as attractive as it once was. Especially after a litany of high-profile, and some argue racially motivated, killings of Black men and women by police.

“Public perception of the law enforcement profession can have an effect on application rates,” city budget officials wrote. “In the last year, there has been a downturn in applications to GPD, as well as police agencies nationwide. Some possible reasons for the low rate of applicants is the COVID-19 pandemic and the ‘defund the police’ movement following the death of George Floyd.”

In other business, council voted unanimously to sell an important parcel of land on the south end of downtown.

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The land on Gate City Boulevard is currently used as a paved parking lot for Union Square Campus.

Council approved a deal for a developer to buy the 2.5 acres and invest $51 million to build nearly 250 apartments with a privately built parking deck. The deck, with about 500 parking spaces, would be just to the west of Union Square on the east side of South Elm.

The developer, Rea-South Elm LLC, is a partnership that includes the master developer that has been working with the city for several years to create a master plan for the “South Elm Street Redevelopment Plan.”

This is the first major piece of property sold to a private developer since the project began 10 years ago when Greensboro decided to rehabilitate a once-blighted area. The sale will net the city $1.2 million.

Dyan Arkin, a senior planner for the city, said last month the land sale is awaiting survey work, but she is confident this is a major step forward.

The development team includes South Elm Development’s Robert L. Chapman, who has or is planning to build more than 10,000 apartments across the Southeast; Greensboro’s Bob Isner, who is a general contractor with experience redeveloping the nearby Southside Neighborhood; and architect Seth Harry.

The corporate partner, Rea Ventures Group, has developed more than 9,000 apartments and specializes in affordable housing.

At least 20% of the apartments in the South Elm Street project will have below-market rents for affordability.

The five-level apartment project includes street-level retail space. The precast parking deck will have six levels with a “fabric screen” on the south side facing Arlington Street to make it more visually appealing.

Arkin said that once the developers buy the land, they have up to three years to complete the project with an option to extend that by one more year.

Meanwhile, Greensboro will do its part with roughly $4.5 million in bond spending to upgrade South Elm Street’s amenities and sidewalks.

Development south of Gate City Boulevard has long been a dream for city planners. The Downtown Greenway, which is under construction to the east along Murrow Boulevard, circles to the south of Union Square Campus along Bragg Street and will be accessible by residents of these proposed apartments.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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