Greensboro, N.C. - "I ain't scared of y'all. Y'all ain't scared of me," former Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston said at a community meeting Monday night.
Some community members are upset about the way renovation plans for the Bessemer Shopping Center, now called the Renaissance Center, are proceeding.
The city of Greensboro is in the process of selling the old Bessemer Center to a group of investors represented by Skip Alston. The center is located just off Phillips Avenue.
As part of the agreement, the investors will give the outside of the center a facelift, and then give 43 percent of the center to the community. The neighborhood can use that space for a community center or even rent out a portion of the space to earn income to help support the center.
Here's the problem: some community members thought Alston's investors would also renovate the inside of the community area. Now, they fear that won't happen.
"Here you have 20,000 square feet. The non-profit is just being formed, so they haven't had enough of a chance to get revenue to upfit it, and Mr. Alston tells us, 'There are lights there...There are water pipes there.' Those things have not been in use for years," community member Goldie Wells said.
Another community member, Mary Louise Smith, said, "I think Mr. Alston feels that he's above the common man. I think Mr. Alston likes to negotiate in back rooms. Those of us who are out in the public, never really know what happens."
When WFMY News 2 talked to Skip Alston, he was aware of the community's concerns. "I don't mind them getting upset with me. I don't mind fighting for the community. This is in the best interest of the community as a whole. You have a small group of people who have other ideas about what to do with the center," Alston said.
Council member Jim Kee said there is no reason for people to be upset because he says the city will invest the money needed to renovate the inside of the community center area.
"There is money left over from the original loan that we can utilize to upfit the interior of the 20,000 square feet," Kee said.
Nothing is final yet with this project. Lawyers for the city and Alston's investors are still negotiating.
But, if a deal gets worked out, Council member Kee said he thinks construction could begin within a few months. Kee also said Alston's plan would work well for the city because the investors would do the work of finding tenants for the property.