Former Hanes Lowrance campus touted as future community center

Winston-Salem City Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke speaks during a press conference on Friday, July 23, on the steps of City Hall.

Former Hanes Lowrance campus touted as future community center
July 29
11:33 2021

In an attempt to transform the vacant property into a community center, Winston-Salem City Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke has requested that the local school district gift the former campus of Hanes-Lowrance Middle School on Indiana Avenue to the city. 

During a press conference on Friday, July 23, Hanes Burke announced her plans to transform the 21 acres of land that was vacated by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in 2015, into a “one-stop community center” that will offer several different programs and resources. Burke said by gifting the property to the city, the district would be helping improve the quality of life for the families of their students. She also mentioned that the city shouldn’t have to pay because the city deeded the land to WS/FCS in the 1960s. 

“We would like the school to be repurposed and turned into a one-stop transformational, transitional community center,” Burke continued. “The center would provide wrap-around services such as job skills, training, employment opportunities, housing assistance, space for small businesses, retail space, as well as preventative programs. Although the center would be located in the Northeast Ward, the benefits would be far reaching throughout the city.” 

Burke suggested that the city use funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to help bring the community center to life. The American Rescue Plan was signed earlier this year and gives aid to American cities, towns, and villages. Burke said so far, the city has received $26.1 million in ARP Funds. “The American Rescue Funds have been specifically designated for communities with the greatest need and according to the American Rescue Plan, Hanes-Lowrance sits in the heart of a high-needs location,” Burke said.

Earlier this year the board of education discussed moving the bus maintenance facility to Indiana Avenue. The maintenance facility, which is currently located on Lansing Drive, was sold to TW Garner Foods. Hanes Burke said the people who live in the community have let it be known they don’t want the maintenance facility in their neighborhood. 

“Currently an outside organization is occupying space inside the school. More importantly, there are plans to turn the school into a garage and bus maintenance facility; however, my constituents have made it clear to me they do not want a bus garage in their community,” Burke said. “Instead I, along with hundreds of residents and community members, are requesting that this property be used to benefit the community.” 

Hanes Burke said she met with four members of the board of education in April to discuss her plans and is hoping to sit down with Superintendent Tricia McManus sometime this week. 

Mayor Pro Tempore Denise “DD” Adams, Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El Amin, Pastor Tembila Covington, president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, attorney James Perry, CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League, Al Jabaar, president of the local NAACP, and Winston-Salem State University professor and former president of the local chapter of the Black Panther Party, Larry Little, all joined Councilmember Burke during her press conference last week.

Adams said she was in total support of Burke’s plan. She said the community will provide the area with much needed economic and community development. “This project aligns with the city’s strategic mission for job creation, economic development, workforce training and the creation and support for small businesses,” said Adams during the press conference. 

“There is so much that is possible for the community at this site.”

As mentioned earlier, Hanes-Lowrance hasn’t been located at the campus on Indiana Avenue since 2015. Before the start of the 2015-2016 school year, the WS/FCS Board of Education voted to move students out of the building after parents raised concerns about chemicals underneath the school and surrounding neighborhoods, even though tests conducted by the city proved the school was safe. 

The city also tested seven homes in the neighborhood for tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trochloroethylene (TCE), the two most concerning chemicals found in the area. Both chemicals have been linked directly to cancer. During the tests, experts obtained ground samples from underneath a number of homes and tested the air quality inside a number of others believed to be in the affected area.

None of the homes tested positive for PCE and one home tested positive for TCE.

Environmental toxicologist Will Service said the amount of TCE present in the home that tested positive would not cause any health issues because the amount present was so small. “The risk was extremely low in that one finding,” he said. “A one-in-a-million cancer risk.”

When discussing health risks and testing in the area, Burke said the project would be contingent on soil and environmental testing. “The city would complete due diligence with an environmental assessment inside and outside the building to ensure its safety.” 

It is unclear when and if the Winston-Salem City Council will discuss this matter. The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 2. 

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