City approves loan for Brown Elementary demolition

City approves loan for Brown Elementary demolition
May 18
06:15 2017



The City Council unanimously approved a loan to demolish the historic Brown Elementary School building to make way for senior apartments.

The council approved a loan of $200,000 to the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS) to demolish the former school in preparation for building 120 units of multi-family rental senior housing on the site. The school, located at 12th Street and Highland Avenue, was first built in 1914 for black students during segregation and closed in 1984. HAWS acquired the building in 2014 and it was gutted by a fire last year.

The burned out building had became a source of concern and complaints in the neighborhood, said Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke. City Council Member John Larson lamented that the historic building couldn’t have been repurposed before it was ruined.

“This is a tragic loss of a building in Winston-Salem that we couldn’t quite save in time,” said Larson.

The site was first home to Woodland Avenue Colored Grade School in 1910, which was a wood building about the size of a house. The first part of the current Brown building was built in 1914 when Woodland Principal Robert Washington Brown pushed for a better facility. At the time it was among the most modern facilities for blacks in the South.

The student population continued to grow rapidly, so the school expanded several times over the decades. Brown remained principal at the school until his death in 1941, after which the school was renamed in his honor. Brown was also one of three partners that founded the Winston Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1906, and was secretary-treasurer of the company when he died.

Burke said that the his-tory should be memorialized in some way in the new project. HAWS plans to do that but what form it may take, such as a plaque or a statue, hasn’t been determined.

The city’s loan only goes to demolition. HAWS has applied for state tax-credits to fund the construction, which if approved, is planned to start in 2018. This is part of a series of development projects HAWS has done to try to revitalize the area.

Also during the meet-ing, the council approved a public hearing on June 5 on nearly $5.3 million in two-thirds bonds. Two-third bonds let local governments borrow up to two-thirds of the debt they retired in the previous year. These types of bonds can be approved by the City Council after a public hearing and don’t require a voter referendum.

The bonds include $1.59 million for public improvements that include facility repairs and acquiring land for a future fire station. There’s $1.75 million for Recreation and Parks that includes repairs and renovations to the Salem Lake trail and Winston Lake Golf Course, along with picnic shelters, playgrounds, lighting, facilities and pools around the city. There’s also $1.95 million for streets and sidewalks that includes street resurfacing, bridge repair and the addition of a sidewalk on Silas Creek Parkway from Bolton Street to Lockland Avenue that’ll serve Forsyth Technical Community College and the surrounding area.

During the public comment session, Martha Cecil of Speak Out for Circus Animals asked that a potential ban on wild circus animals be brought back for consideration. At the urging of Cecil and other animal activists, the Public Safety Committee considered a ban on wild circus animals, which activists said were being mistreated and can potentially endanger the public. The matter was tabled last year, since there was no imminent visit by a major circus. The ban that was being considered would not affect animals at the Dixie Classic Fair.  Last month, Los Angles, California, joined the growing number of local governments across the country to ban wild circus animals.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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