Upping the ‘cool factor’ in Greensboro through development projects

Marty Kotis III has bought Street art artist from around the world to Greensboro to display their work around the city in Greensboro, NC on May 3, 2022. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

GREENSBORO — Commercial real estate developer and restauranteur Marty Kotis has big plans for drawing business and young people to Greensboro by “upping the cool factor” through various development projects. 

An art project at a Cone Blvd. restaurant owned by Greensboro developer Marty Kotis is shown. Courtesy photo

Kotis is the CEO of Kick Ass Concepts, formerly known as Kotis Holdings. Kick Ass Concepts bills itself as a “development, commercial real estate, restaurant and entertainment company.” He is also the man responsible for the explosion of vibrant street art in the area through his project Kotis Street Art.  

Kotis’ company owns around 45 acres along part of the Battleground Avenue corridor in midtown Greensboro within which he intends to create a “live, work, and play district with amenities including rooftop terraces, shops and apartments along the greenway.”  

Kick Ass Concepts’ sizeable footprint of 1 million square feet of retail space and around 150 tenants has a portfolio of iconic businesses like the Painted Plate, Red Cinemas Luxury Theater, Burger Warfare, Pig Pounder, and Tracks Beer Garden Bazaar and Bandstand. 

In an interview with North State Journal, Kotis said he thinks the 11-acre project in downtown Greensboro is probably the most interesting one. The site used to be the old Brooks Lumber yard with related warehouses, but Kotis has begun transforming it into a hip multi-use venue.  

“We’ve got Dram & Draught Whiskey Bar in there. We’re doing an electric vehicle company in there,” said Kotis. “We’re doing salon suites, a food truck park, an outdoor music venue, a farmer’s market, an indoor music venue, an axe throwing and skateboarding place, an art gallery and a beer garden.” 

Additionally, new 10-acre mixed use spaces in both the midtown and high ground areas for entertainment, office, and retail use are also in the works. 

Bringing Greensboro into the same competition range as Charlotte and Raleigh in terms of jobs, shopping, entertainment, and overall city attractiveness are keys to his development strategy. 

“First thing is you have to have jobs that people want,” Kotis said. “And the second part of it is you have to have the amenities that people want – the restaurants, the bars artwork, the performing arts.” 

Along the Battleground Avenue corridor in midtown Greensboro is an area Kotis has been working on redeveloping since 1991. He noted a list of older and defunct businesses in that zone have been swapped out for newer “cool stuff that you normally see in a city” and the next step was to address the area’s building height problem. 

“I’m going back in and looking to dense those up and go more vertical because that’s one of the problems in Greensboro,” Kotis explained. “When you drive through town, you don’t see many buildings that are over one story or two stories in height along most of our corridors and it really weird.

A sculpture inside one of the development projects owned by Marty Kotis. Courtesy photo

Kotis said he noticed the lack of vertical development as an issue, but said that when other people visit the city, “they can’t quite put their finger on it, but they’re like, ‘this just feels run down or older, you know, like an 80s strip mall’.” 

“I’m also just kind of developing more in cell along the Battleground Avenue Corridor,” said Kotis. “And I’m going back and looking at shopping centers, like along West Market Street, or up in the Northeast side of town where I’m rejuvenating centers and redeveloping them, which is something I really enjoy doing.” 

Kotis went on to mention the need for more apartments that would be attractive to younger people to compete with some of the dated existing set of housing options in the area.  

But there have been some roadblocks along the redevelopment path Kotis wants to take and the Greensboro City Planning Department has been somewhat of an obstacle. Kotis described traveling to different areas in the state and getting great ideas to bring back but ending up being frustrated by city planners. 

“When I come back to Greensboro, I’m frustrated because they don’t know how to deal with creative projects,” Kotis said of the city’s planning department. “They’re used to approving a Sheetz or McDonald’s or something I’ve seen before. But when we’re thinking outside the box, they can’t think outside the box with us, and so their instant reaction to all of these projects is to turn them down.” 

Kotis also pointed to the city’s use of ordinances, giving an example of wanting to have ten food trucks at the Tracks, the 8-acre development project near downtown. 

“The city, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that no, you should really only be able to have one to three food trucks because we don’t want to have too many food trucks compete with restaurants in the area,” said Kotis. “Well, they’re not. There’s not a single damn restaurant on this whole city block that I own, or this city block I own, this city block I found or this city block that I own. And when I want to put in food trucks on my own property, they say that’s too many and they’ve got an ordinance preventing it.” 

Kotis also is frustrated with the city demanding he build a permanent toilet to accommodate 100 people for a planned outside music venue. He called it “asinine” that the city also wanted gates on that outdoor venue so that in the event of a fire, so people can “go stand out in the middle of the street or in the middle of the railroad.” 

Crime and homelessness in parts of the city tied to a lack of policing and legal enforcement are also issues, according to Kotis. In particular, crime has been an issue near Tracks. 

“It’s a constant problem in if we go down to Tracks and walk through there. I guarantee you we will see piles of trash that my guys have cleaned for that week,” Kotis said. “You’ll see piles of trash. You’ll see homeless people around; they’re urinating or defecating [and] they’ll be breaking into businesses.” 

Kotis said the general rule has been for homeless people could “just have carte blanche authority, to do whatever they want to do” and “at the expense of all of our liberties.” He added that police officers have been reluctant to make arrests for fear of being accused of harassing the homeless. 

In addition, Kotis said drug users and aggressive panhandling have also been deterrents to advancing redevelopment. 

“We had a guy come over twice now and strip down naked in front of a shopping center in front of a Pure Barre space and start going through the trash cans and harassing people and yelling at them and all that,” Kotis gave as an example. 

“Imagine you’re a new business, wanting to come into the area and see that… you go, ‘I don’t want to go there,’” Kotis added.

About A.P. Dillon 679 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_