Hamburger Square Renovation

A 50th Anniversary Project of Greensboro Beautiful

Placemaking is based on a simple principle: if you plan cities for cars and traffic, you will get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you will get people and places. -Project for Public Spaces

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Hamburger Square: Elm, McGee, and Davie Streets


The Evolution of this Project
The impetus for the project begin with 2015 ArtsGreensboro’s SmART initiative, which identified the unfortunate loss of “place” at Hamburger Square. Arts Greensboro and other community partners funded a Better Blocks demonstration project as well as a landscape concept plan. The City of Greensboro then developed an engineering plan for the addition of bike lanes and narrower streets.

In May 2016, Greensboro Beautiful, the City of Greensboro and the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) representatives met to discuss the project. NCRR owns the rail corridor and the parcels of land north and south of the rail line. With the proper agreements in place, NCRR agreed to grant permission for beautification of its parcels around Hamburger Square. In August 2017, the City of Greensboro and NCRR completed the appropriate agreements to allow beautification of the area. The City of Greensboro will partner with Greensboro Beautiful on the project.

Why Hamburger Square? Central to our City’s History
The confluence of the North Carolina Railroad and the Atlantic and Yadkin made Greensboro a significant freight and passenger hub in the 1890s. At that time, 50 passenger trains a day came through downtown Greensboro, making it the central connecting point for travelers in the Southeast. The nickname “the Gate City” is derived from this activity.

A Problem-Solver - Renovation of this under-utilized area will:

  • Add green space and trees
  • Bridge the physical gap between two separate parts of downtown
  • Calm traffic and increase overall safety
  • Promote pedestrian crossing under the trestle, rather than at-grade.
  • Improve the pedestrian experience and safety from Southside neighborhood.
  • Boost additional development and restoration. Several under-utilized properties bound the Hamburger Square area.

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Why is it called Hamburger Square?
The intersection of Davie, Elm, and McGee streets hosted hundreds of thousands of travelers in the 20th century, especially when Greensboro was home to the Overseas Replacement Depot during Work War II. As a result, several hotels sprang up, as well as dozens of eateries. At one time, this intersection  held four sandwich shops: Jim’s Lunch, California Sandwich Shop, Little Ester’s Sandwich Shop, and New York Café.

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hs 1900 atlantic yadkin nc rr crossing elm

Project Timeline

  • Area repaving and re-striping project (City of Greensboro)
  • Sept 2017: Official acceptance of project for 50th (Greensboro Beautiful)
  • Nov 2017: Refine design with community input (Greensboro Beautiful)
  • Winter-Spring 2018: Design and Engineering drawings prepared (Stimmel)
  • Fall 2018: Budget Development and formation of Steering Committee
  • Winter 2018-19. Concept Refinement and Fundraising
  • Spring - Summer 2019. Hardscape Construction.
  • Fall 2019. Planting

Community Feedback (Nov 2017)
Train viewing area. Many residents expressed a desire for a designated viewing area, especially for parents and children. In conversations with North Carolina Railroad, a viewing area is most safely placed in the landscaped island south of the trestle, because roads would separate people from the danger of the moving trains. Another ideal viewing area could be an improved rooftop of adjacent building.

Beautification. Residents expressed strong desire to retain existing trees. They also desired additional planting areas, especially the elimination of concrete traffic islands. Annual flower display and public art were frequently mentioned, along with the need to paint the trestle.

Pedestrian Safety. Improved lighting and crosswalks were desired, especially those improvements that would entice pedestrians to traverse safely under the railroad trestle, rather than at-grade.

Noise reduction. Several residents mentioned the need to mitigate the sound of train horns to facilitate additional development of the area.

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Preliminary Budget and Fundraising
As with all Greensboro Beautiful projects, the costs are shared between Greensboro Beautiful and the City of Greensboro. Our preliminary budget is shown below. Greensboro Beautiful volunteers will manage the public fundraising campaign. In January 2019, Greensboro Beautiful received a $50,000 lead gift from the Christman Company.

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City of Greensboro Greensboro Beautiful
Site Preparation$42,205
Hardscape & Paving$75,216$175,043
Site Development/Landscaping$107,020

Total project cost estimate: $372,257

Chip Callaway

Chip Callaway
Garden Designer

Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Johnson
City Council Member

Kitty Robinson

Kitty Robinson
Original City Beautiful Coordinator

Greensboro Beautiful, Inc.
Greensboro Beautiful, Inc. is one of the city’s most outstanding public private partnerships. Since 1968, the volunteer-driven organization has worked in cooperation with the City of Greensboro and private donors to establish and maintain four public gardens, host annual free community events, and coordinate tree plantings, litter cleanups, and educational programs.

In 2018, Greensboro Beautiful celebrated its 50th anniversary. Choosing to beautify this central location demonstrates our commitment to all of Greensboro, not just one particular area or neighborhood.

The timing is perfect. The restoration of Hamburger Square coincides with The Cascade Saloon restoration and a burgeoning South End district which includes arts and entrepreneur spaces, retailers and restaurants. Beautification provides the footing for additional private development.

Public-Private Partnership
As they have done for the past fifty years, Greensboro Beautiful and the City of Greensboro will work hand-in-hand on this project. For example, the City of Greensboro Field Operations Department will use their equipment to excavate and dig holes, the Planning Department provides the expertise of their Urban Forester to select the proper tree varieties, and Water Resources will assist with, well, of course, water. The nonprofit Greensboro Beautiful provides fundraising and community support, supplies and plant material, and hundreds of volunteers. Both entities work together on marketing, promotion, and neighborhood engagement.
The arrangement works in part because all of Greensboro Beautiful projects occur on public property. We plant trees in the public right of way, not on private property. We develop gardens on public land, not private. All special events are free and open to public.

Additional Project Partners
Greensboro Beautiful is pursuing additional project partners such as Downtown Greensboro, Inc. and the Downtown Resident’s Association.

Ongoing Maintenance
The City of Greensboro Field Operations department will provide ongoing maintenance.

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