City Council approves masterplans for Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights

Renderings of the future development for the Columbia Heights and Dreamland Park neighborhoods approved by the city council.

City Council approves masterplans for Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights
February 10
13:16 2023

The Winston-Salem City Council has approved a resolution that is designed to serve as a guide for future development in Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights, two neighborhoods located in East Winston. The city has been working with Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County and North Carolina A&T State University (NCATSU) on the plans since 2019. 

Here’s what we know: In 2019 the city funded a pilot program to be administered by Habitat for Humanity and a team of faculty, staff and students from NCATSU’s Built Environment Department, College of Science and Technology’ Civil, Architectural, Environmental and Engineering Department, College of Engineering; and Leadership Studies Department, College of Education, to help create revitalization plans for Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights. 

The proposals, which were developed after several meetings with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders in the community, are similar to the East End Masterplan, which was developed by Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore-based design firm. Plans developed from those meetings held in-person and virtually from August 2020 until July 2021, were presented to the members of city council last year.

Recommendations for both plans look to address current issues with land use and housing, transportation and aesthetics. There are also recommendations that are specific to each plan. For example, the Dreamland Park Neighborhood Transformation Plan puts more emphasis on creating opportunities for housing rehabilitation and green spaces throughout the neighborhood. The Columbia Heights/Skyline Village Neighborhood Revitalization Plan calls for a complete overhaul of the entire community to incorporate a “mixed-use/income net-zero energy efficient sustainable residential community” design approach and creating economic development opportunities. 

Dreamland Park

Located near East 14th Street and New Walkertown Road, the neighborhood known as Dreamland Park dates back to the early 1920s and the height of residential segregation. In those days the neighborhood was occupied by Black doctors, educators, bankers, and tradesmen. 

George Black, a nationally-known brick maker, whose handmade bricks were used to make Winston-Salem’s finest houses and restore Old Salem, called Dreamland Park home. His house and brickyard located on Dellabrook Road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Like most Black neighborhoods in the South, post-World War II urban renewal had a negative effect on Dreamland Park. And just like other once thriving Black neighborhoods, Dreamland Park never recovered. 

When discussing their concerns, members of the Dreamland Park Neighborhood Association, residents and other stakeholders in the community raised concerns about the need for affordable rehabilitation programs. 

After meeting with community stakeholders, the team with NCATSU presented several design options to stakeholders and they had the opportunity to choose which design they liked most. The design they decided to go with consists of 55 new homes in undeveloped lots, four green spaces, and a proposed wilderness walk that will travel along Brushy Fork Creek. 

The plan also calls for education sessions for members of the neighborhood to explain housing rehabilitation programs that are available in the area. 

Columbia Heights 

Founded by Simon Green Atkins in the 1890s, Columbia Heights is one of the city’s oldest Black neighborhoods. Located on the outskirts of what today is Winston-Salem State University, the neighborhood, Columbia Heights, was once known as the city’s most prominent Black neighborhood. 

The neighborhood continued to thrive in the early 1900s, but the construction of Highway 52 essentially marked the end of Columbia Heights. 

During meetings with stakeholders in Columbia Heights, the team from NCATSU received the green light to redevelop the entire neighborhood. The revitalization plan calls for a mixture of single family homes, townhomes, duplexes and mixed-use buildings consisting of retail spaces and restaurants. 

When looking at specifics, the plan calls for 20 bungalow/cottage court housing types, nine duplex houses, 16 triplex houses, eight quadruplex houses, 25 multiplex housing types, 100 townhomes, and 20 affordable single-family homes. Plans also call for the creation of a pedestrian mall along Diggs Blvd. and Vargrave St. 

The biggest proposed change to the neighborhood comes in the form of green energy. The plan calls for the launch of an initiative that will repurpose existing asphalt parking lots with a grass-parking surface and installation of solar panel-covered parking spaces that will provide electricity to houses and businesses in the area. 

Skyline Village is privately owned and changes to the development are not included in the plans. Plans do not include changes to the housing development, but do include changes to the streets and roads that connect Columbia Heights and Skyline Village. 

If implemented as presented in the plans, the Dreamland Park Neighborhood Transformation Plan would cost about $26 million; the Columbia Heights/Skyline Village Neighborhood Revitalization Plan would cost about $60 million, for a total of $86 million.

When discussing the resolution to adopt the revitalization plans during the Community Development/Housing/General Government Committee meeting on Jan. 10, Councilmember Robert Clark said he wanted the public to know that the plans are long-term and the city doesn’t have the funding for the projects. 

“I’m not sure what this resolution does, but I do want to go on the record, but these studies came with an enormous price tag,” Clark continued. “I don’t want to mislead people that this is something that we’re going to do tomorrow; $86 million is nowhere in the budget.

“I don’t have any trouble adopting it as a long-range plan … but I don’t want people to think this is something we’re going to do tomorrow because we do not have $86 million. We don’t even have a fraction of that.”

Although funding for the projects in Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights are not in the budget, now that the plans have been adopted by city council, Planning and Development Services will use the recommendations as a guide when making zoning decisions and development ordinances in the area. 

Councilmember Annette Scippio, who represents the East Ward, said the adopted revitalization plans can serve as a guide for other neighborhoods. She also applauded Habitat for Humanity and NCATSU for including residents and other stakeholders in the decision-making process. 

“I think this is an example of how to work with residents to get a vision for revitalization in neighborhoods that have not been invested in in almost 70 years,” Scippio said. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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