Cashing in on downtown’s growth

Cashing in on downtown’s growth
May 02
08:35 2019

When discussing economic growth in Winston-Salem, it’s hard not to notice the changes downtown. But with recent investments in infrastructure and attractions that draw people from across the city and Forsyth County, the city’s best kept secret just may be the Southeast Ward.

Since 2014 the city has invested more than $30 million in the Southeast Ward.  City councilman and representative for the Southeast Ward James Taylor said after witnessing the growth of downtown, he saw it as his duty to make sure some of that growth made its way to his ward.

“Once we got the arches and the Salem Creek Connector open, you’re downtown from the southeastern portion of the city in just a matter of minutes, so we were able to capitalize,” said Taylor, who is publisher of The Chronicle.

The 1.1 mile connecter is a four-lane road with a median from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, south of Winston-Salem State University, to Rams Drive and to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. The $68.9 million project funded by the City of Winston-Salem and the N.C. Department of Transportation is designed to make it easier for drivers to access U.S. 52 from WSSU and Salem College.

“When you look at projects like the Quarry, Salem Lake, Southeast Plaza, Reynolds Park, there’s so much going on and the catalyst was the Salem Creek Connector that connects us to downtown instantly,” continued Taylor. “We are technically the first area of the city to capitalize off the development that’s going on downtown. If you look at the map and look at how downtown and the southeast portion of the city are connected, it just makes sense.”

Most of the projects in the Southeast Ward were approved by voters in two separate capital needs bonds in 2014 and 2018. Projects in the 2014 Bond include: $4 million for phase I of Quarry Park, $4 million for Salem Park renovations/improvements, and $3 million for renovations at Sedge Garden and Reynolds Park Recreation Centers.  The 2018 bond referendum includes an additional $6.8 million for phase II of renovations at Salem Lake and Quarry Park, $1 million for the construction of the pedestrian path along the Salem Creek Greenway, $3 million for Southeast Ward economic development initiatives, $600,000 for a new splash park at Sprague Street Recreation Center, and $1 million for renovations at William R. Anderson Recreation Center and Easton Park.

According to Taylor, Phase II at Quarry Park could include the addition of a playground, picnic shelters and the expansion and paving of the parking lot. Phase I of the Salem Lake project was completed earlier last year and includes a new Marina Center. Taylor said the plan is to make Quarry Park and the entire Southeast Ward a complete “destination location,” which is why they decided to invest so much into Quarry Park and the renovations at Salem Lake.

“We want to make people want to live in our area and if we want this to be a destination location, in order to do that we have to put a little extra money in Salem Lake, Quarry Park and other high priority projects in our community,” Taylor said.

While the Southeast Ward has seen much success recently in terms of development, it still has one of the lowest per-acre and per-parcel rates in the city. To address these issues in the Southeast Ward, the city has partnered with S.G. Atkins Community Development to build affordable houses in Ridgewood Place, with Merritt Land Co. to develop affordable houses at Stonefield Crossing, and with the Winston-Salem Housing Authority to redevelop affordable housing at Stoney Glen Apartments.   

“People want to come to our community because people can live here at an affordable rate and the one thing I encourage people to do is to stay,” said Taylor. “We don’t want to see large trails of gentrification in the urban core. We want people to hold their property and their values will rise and our community will continue to move forward.”

When discussing the future of the Southeast Ward, Taylor said he is looking to redevelop the historic Nissen Wagon Works building into a multi-use site that can be utilized by the youth and others in the community, to bring a public library to the area, and a healthcare facility. Last month the City Council also approved $3 million for the construction of a new Belview Community Center. The new facility is expected to include a gymnasium, classroom, and workspace for the city’s S.O.A.R. (Successful Outcomes After Release) and YouthBuild programs, a computer lab, a meeting space for community groups, and a new playground.

While reflecting on the growth of the Southeast Ward over the past five years, Taylor said he is proud of what the community has accomplished so far, but there is still work to be done.  He said, “I got into politics because I wanted to move our community forward and it just makes me feel really good to know that we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.

“This comes about because of a groundswell of community effort and support. Seeing all the money come through makes us feel hopeful that we are leaving our community a better place than when we found it. We’re creating jobs, which is important; we’re working on health care, we’re working on reducing crime, and proper community and economic development, and I think that’s the recipe for success.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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