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Gibbs resigns as director of Phoenix
Friday, February 15, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The executive director of the Phoenix Community Development Corp. has resigned.
Ray Gibbs resigned effective Feb. 6, according to Nancy Spilman, chairman of Phoenix’s board. She said he left “to pursue other opportunities,” and said she had no more information on his decision.
Reached at his home Thursday afternoon, Gibbs would not comment on his resignation.
Now that he has left Phoenix, “we are in the process of determining our direction,” Spilman said, adding that the organization expects to make an announcement “in the near future” concerning how it will proceed.
Established in 2009, Phoenix is a nonprofit developer involved in efforts to redevelop the former Henry Hotel uptown and other projects. Gibbs has been its only executive director, having joined the organization in 2010.
The Harvest Foundation currently funds Phoenix’s annual budget of about $300,000.
Allyson Rothrock, the foundation’s executive director, said she is confident that Phoenix will be successful at “whatever they do in the future” since its board includes “some of the strongest” community leaders.
When he was hired, Gibbs had almost 30 years of experience in real estate development, community planning and economic development, including eight years as president and chief executive officer of Downtown Greensboro Inc.
People familiar with his background have described Gibbs as being the person largely responsible for downtown Greensboro’s transformation into a vibrant arts, entertainment and business center.
“He is talented in his field,” Spilman said. “He worked very hard and did a good job (for Phoenix). I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Since Phoenix was launched, only one project in which the organization has been involved has come to fruition — a restroom building, described by local officials as a “comfort station,” along the uptown walking trail spur.
The building is a prefabricated, concrete edifice that the city paid for and installed. Phoenix spent about $18,000 to create an exterior design for the building and put siding and a roof on it, Gibbs said recently, “so it wouldn’t look like a concrete block” sitting on the ground.
Phoenix plans to renovate the four-story former Henry Hotel at the corner of East Church and Broad streets, which is owned by the city, for 21 apartments and four businesses, which may include stores and restaurants, its website shows.
Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki said he thinks Gibbs’ resignation will not affect the building’s redevelopment because Phoenix still is intact.
Yet the city has sought proposals for the property from other developers.
“We’ve told the city we’re interested in partnering with them” to redevelop the building, Spilman said, adding that she could not comment further on the project’s status.
Also, Phoenix plans to renovate the Holt building on East Church Street to include commercial space on the first floor and upscale apartments on the second and third floors, according to its website.
Spilman said she could not comment on that project’s status.
Phoenix recently abandoned plans to construct a mixed-use building at the site of a city-owned parking lot on Fayette Street uptown, largely as a result of nearby businesses’ concerns about parking, which stemmed from how the structure would be positioned on the property.
Spilman indicated that while none of its major projects have materialized so far, the organization is making progress.
“To get a project going forward is a huge undertaking,” she said.
“The projects that Phoenix is trying to implement are very complex,” Rothrock said recently, requiring multiple “people at the table” and funding sources.
“A big real estate project is not something that’s going to happen overnight,” she added.