The buzz word in Greensboro right now? Downtown revitalization. From new craft breweries to the widely anticipated opening of LeBauer Park, the city’s center is teeming with activity.

And Spartans are getting in on the action.

The city’s historic south end, particularly Lewis Street, is anchored by HQ Greensboro, the city’s coworking space, and The Forge, Greensboro’s first makerspace. It’s not surprising that two of our own – UNCG alumna Sara Pilling-Kellogg and UNCG student Joe Rotondi – are at the helm of these organizations.

Pilling-Kellogg, who graduated on May 6 with a master’s degree in public affairs, interned with HQ Greensboro during the summer of 2015 and never left.

“The work was very rewarding,” she said. “As we got closer to the end of my internship, I told them that I refused to leave because I really liked what HQ was doing.”

Now the director of HQ Greensboro, Pilling-Kellogg’s goal is to facilitate “happy collisions” – a phrase she borrows from Greensboro developer and HQ Greensboro co-founder Andy Zimmerman. Members of the shared workspace have access to a variety of offices and meeting rooms, classes, workshops and events.

“One of my favorite parts of HQ is seeing people make connections with each other,” she said. “It’s an amazing group of people here.”

Rotondi, who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship, plays a similar role as executive director of The Forge, a workshop and collaborative space in which community members design and create.

His original plan when he moved to Greensboro in 2009 was to work as a “traveling bartender” and hop from city to city. However, after several years in Greensboro, he knew he couldn’t leave. He started getting involved with community events, and soon after he met a group of designers and inventors who eventually became the first members of The Forge. Last fall, he was hired to lead the organization.

“I see my job as a hub and a catalyst for what the makers are doing,” Rotondi said. “My top priority is to make this place sustainable.”

Bryan Toney, associate vice chancellor for economic engagement at UNCG, works closely with both HQ Greensboro and The Forge to facilitate connections between the university and the community. According to Toney, Pilling-Kellogg and Rotondi are key players in the city’s transformation.

“You need the right people to stimulate an innovative ecosystem, and they’re the right people for the job,” Toney said. “Joe and Sara represent some of the city’s top young talent. They’re an inspiration to others.”

What’s next for Greensboro? According to Rotondi, it’s an exciting time to be a part of what he calls the “perfect big-little town.”

Pilling-Kellogg couldn’t agree more.

“Everything we talked about in our classes, I see happening in Greensboro,” she said. “This is probably one of the best textbook examples of how development is happening. It’s a really interesting time to be in Greensboro.”

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations