Tag Archives: winston-salem

Apartments a Big Part of Winston-Salem’s Downtown Revitalization

I wrote the following for the blog at the day job and am re-posting it here because I thought it would be of interest to some people from my neck of the woods:

At its annual meeting on February 24 the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership outlined how Winston-Salem’s downtown has been revitalized over the last 15+ years:

The nonprofit group listed 88 downtown investment projects since 2000 that have either been completed, are under way or for which a firm commitment has been made.

The combined capital investment value is $1.23 billion, topped by the $106 million spent on Wake Forest BioTech Place and the $100 million commitment by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center toward a major medical education facility. Both buildings are in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The investment is divided into eight categories: health and technology (eight projects, total $445.4 million); infrastructure (10 projects, total $188.4 million); institutional and public development (15 projects, total $181.6 million); residential (15 projects, total $140 million); multiple use (eight projects, total $95.1 million); office (five projects, total $88.4 million); arts and entertainment (five projects, total $50.3 million); and commercial (22 projects, total $42.2 million).

The Nissen Building, a PTAA member, was the largest residential project at $32 million, although far from the only project downtown – Winston Factory Lofts, Plant 64, Hilltop House, The Gallery Lofts, and Link Apartments Brookstown to name just a few. The transformation of the former Reynolds HQ building into a Kimpton Hotel and apartments has recently captured the city’s imagination as well as the soon-to-open Mast General Store project that will add another marquee destination for the downtown. In other words the revitalization shows no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile over in Greensboro the entity charged with leading its downtown revitalization, Downtown Greensboro Inc, is going through a transitional phase and is looking for a new leader. That’s important because there are several projects in the works that will alter downtown Greensboro significantly over the next few years and it’s essential that there be someone at the wheel who can bring together the various constituencies – city government, elected leaders, industry, educational institutions, etc. – and provide a strategic direction for downtown redevelopment. If Greensboro can manage to bring some strategic direction to the downtown then we’re sure to see even more apartments developed in the downtown area in addition to those like Greenway at Fisher Park, CityView and the Southeastern Building.

As for High Point, well they have a new mayor, lots of new city council members and a new city manager and one of their primary tasks is figuring out how, and where, to revitalize their city. With the furniture market they do have a unique challenge so it will be interesting to see how things evolve there.

These are indeed interesting and (finally) dynamic times in the Piedmont Triad.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner Gets the Daily Show Treatment and It Goes Well

For those of you who don’t live in the Winston-Salem area you probably haven’t had the pleasure of eating at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, but you might have heard about the social media kerfluffle that broke out a couple of months ago when someone posted the discount they got for praying, aka showing gratitude. Some people jumped on the story and started screaming discrimination, but once the local press started digging into it what was revealed is that Mary’s had a long-standing policy of letting their servers give on the spot discounts for acts of kindness, “moments of Zen”, etc.

From a business standpoint it was probably a bit risky as a policy because it did open the doors for misunderstandings and perceived bias, but on the other hand it was a positive way for the proprietor, Mary Haglund, to empower her employees to acknowledge positive patrons. (How’s that for a little bit of alliteration?) Anyway, the story got the Daily Show’s attention and it was nice to see they exposed the “perpetual panties in a twist” nature of the shouters.

Video is below, and here’s a link in case it doesn’t load here for some reason. If you aren’t from Winston-Salem and end up visiting our fair city then by all means visit Mary’s – great food and atmosphere.

Now That’s an Order Confirmation

I just ordered an energy drink for my wife that will be delivered to our home with a personalized message. Big deal right? What made it cool was the order confirmation served up by the folks at Drink the Sunshine after I finished paying which you can see below. Very creative, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering the folks behind the product.



FYI, I’m both “The Ball and Chain” and the “doofus husband.”

Dealing With Surprising Social Media Fame

Update 8/2/14 – NPR has a story about this and in it mention that they are checking with the Justice Department to see if the restaurant’s policy is a violation of the prohibition against public businesses like restaurant’s discrimating based on religion. It would seem not since the discount is supposedly at the discretion of each server, but then again stuff like this is often not obvious or all that logical. I wouldn’t blame the restaurant for discontinuing the policy just to play it safe.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade Street in Winston-Salem just found out what it’s like to have something go viral. From a story on HLNTV:

The tab belonged to Jordan Smith, who had traveled to Winston-Salem for a business trip and stopped for breakfast at Mary’s with two colleagues Wednesday morning.

She tells HLN the group “prayed over our meal and the waitress came over at the end of the meal and said, ‘Just so you know, we gave you a 15% discount for praying,’ which I’d never seen before.”

Impressed, Smith shared a photo of the receipt on her Facebook page. A mutual friend then posted the pic on the page of Orlando Christian radio station Z88.3 and it’s taken off from there, being shared more than 1,700 times as of Thursday afternoon.

Well, apparently things heated up on Facebook thanks to all the attention, causing Mary to post the following on her business’ Facebook page:


Here’s the text in case that’s hard to read:

There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. I will not respond to all the posts. I will say that it is not a “policy”, it’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude. Prayer, meditation or just breathing while being grateful opens the heart chakra. It’s good for everyone!!!! Thanks to my local community for your support…you know who I am. As for all the people posting negative comments about me & my restaurant who have never met me or been to the restaurant, thanks for sharing, it’s your right to speak out, just as it is mine. Peace, love & happy eating!!!!

It’s a sign of our times that doing almost anything positive can be turned into a negative. Sheesh.

We were talking about this at work and we all had the same thought before Mary posted on Facebook: if we know they’re giving 15% off just for praying we’d bow our heads in a heartbeat. Of course that kind of defeats the purpose, but I wonder how many people around Winston were thinking the same thing?

Back and Better Than Ever

Lucy’s been writing the last couple of years, just not on her (in?)famous blog, Life in Forsyth. Now she’s back and better than ever:

You see a boy riding a bicycle.

I see four years of finding parking at CompRehab. I see a special chair in the lunchroom because he collapsed on little, round stools. I see a child laying on his belly over a giant ball and being gently rolled to learn balance. I see therapeutic pencil grips and modified desks. I see the little room where casts were made of his feet. I see IEPs and testing modifications. I see stair exercises with someone behind him for safety. I see adaptive technology.

I see strength and ferocity and determination.

I see a boy at long last riding a bicycle.

Hopefully she’ll forgive me for sharing an entire post.

Pedaling Winston-Salem

Those of us who live in Lewisville, NC are very aware that the Winston-Salem area is a hotbed for road cyclists. Once the weather gets warm we start to see cyclists by the dozen park in downtown Lewisville so they can take off for what I hear are several very good routes for them to ride. So it's no surprise to us that Winston-Salem would be selected as the home for the US Olympic cycling training center. From the Triad Business Journal:

A vacant 42,000-square-foot building at 505 N. Liberty St. in downtown Winston-Salem will house the new U.S. Olympic cycling training center.

The city itself has been home for the last two years to the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, a road cycling race that attracts national attention and draws racers and fans by the thousands.

“The Southeast has become the hottest, most rapid growth of cycling in the country, and the reason North Carolina leads all that is our geography,” said Dr. Rick Rauckof Carolinas Pain Institute in Winston-Salem and chairman of the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic committee. “Why Winston wins over Charlotte and Raleigh is we have Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, the mountains that these cyclists have to ride to compete are very close to us.”

I'd say this is one more step in what has become a nice renaissance for Winston-Salem and its surrounding communities. 

Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter Highlighted in Wall Street Journal Piece

In today’s (4/16/14) Wall Street Journal, Winston-Salem’s very own Wake Forest Innovation Quarter plays a starring role in the paper’s Deal of the Week segment about the role of historic preservation tax credits in redeveloping mills and factories in North Carolina:

The old plants are worth preserving because they represent North Carolina’s “industrialization at the turn of the 20th century,” said Myrick Howard, president of Preservation North Carolina. “The textile and tobacco industries provided the capital for the rise of our modern banking and energy industries.”

A big user of the tax-credit program is Wexford Science & Technology, a unit of San Diego-based BioMed Realty Trust Inc., BMR +0.66% which has renovated three former R.J. Reynolds tobacco factories in Winston-Salem. The old tobacco factories are part of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter biomedical-science and information-technology hub, where researchers are working on treatments for smoking-related ailments.

This redevelopment is leading to new apartment communities being developed as well, including one of PTAA’s newest members, Plant 64.

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem

*Please note that this is a cross post of a piece I wrote for the blog at work.

Happy Birthday Smitty!

Today Smitty turns 50 and SueMo does a much better job than I ever could in telling us why he's so important to those of us who call Winston-Salem home:

I can't tell you how many people I have met, befriended, and worked with on events as a result of that dinner, and several other "Smitty Dinners."

I read the e-mail newsletter faithfully every other week and have planned my schedule accordingly. His Best of Winston-Salem is always a highlight as I learn about my new favorite places and people in the community that make our city a special place to live, work, learn, and play. 

The effect that Smitty has had on my life is immeasurable. So many of my friends, experiences, and overall feeling about this community is attributed to Jeff Smith and I am sure that I am not alone. On this milestone birthday, I wish Jeff the happiest of birthdays and many more. 

Traffic and the Proposed Country Club Walmart

As reported in local news outlets a Walmart grocery store that is being proposed for a site near the intersection of Meadowlark Drive and Country Club Road is concerning to folks in that neck of the woods and understandably so. That area already experiences some significant traffic issues in the morning and afternoons due to the presence of Meadowlark Elementary and Middle schools and the fact that Meadowlark serves as a major conduit for people traveling to US-421 from Robinhood Road and points north. 

Yes the concerns about traffic from additional development are valid, but if you look at the city/county planning staff's report and recommendation to the planning board you'll see that the proposed development reduces the traffic impact versus what could happen with current zoning. From the staff report:

Existing Zoning: HB-S
71,650/1,000 x 42.94 (Shopping Center Trip Rate) = 3,077 Trips per day

Proposed Zoning: HB-S for Parcel C:
41,179/1,000 x 42.94 (Shopping Center Trip Rate) = 1,768 Trips per Day. Note: this trip estimate does not include the two out parcels D&E which would require Final Development Plan approval. 

As you can see the trip rate is substantially reduced over what a developer could do without a rezoning if they so desired, and even if the two outparcels are developed they will have to get approval and the additional traffic they might generate could be considered at that time.

If you look at the plan you'll also see that the developers are going to provide a connection to the adjacent Brookberry Park Apartments which should help reduce trips on Country Club made from the apartments to the store.

Finally, there are already plans for improving the roads near the intersection which should help alleviate some of the congestion at the intersection. While volume is certainly an issue the expanded turn lanes will help move traffic through the intersection more quickly and reduce the backups that occur during peak traffic.

Long story short, if this was a rezoning from residential to commercial and the lots along that stretch of road were primarily single family residential then the case would be much more problematic. As it is the land has been zoned for this type of use for a while – in other words the horse is already out of the barn so there's no reason to close the door – and the proposed development is actually an improvement over what could be done as-is.  In fact, if the city council goes against the planning board's recommendation the developer has said he might just reconfigure his plans to fit the current zoning:

A representative for engineering firm Genesis North Carolina and developer Columbia Development of Columbia, S.C., said the proposal is a modification of the plan approved for the site in 1998. He said that if “push came to shove” and the city council didn’t approve the proposal, the developer could move forward with the original plan, which calls for more parking spaces and square footage for the building than the new proposal.

But he said the old plan has some flaws, while the new proposal offers tree protection, stormwater provisions and connectivity.

If the city didn't want to see the area developing as it is then they never should have zoned it for this use. Given that the city did zone it this way then the next step is making sure that projects fit and don't have a negative net impact on the surrounding community. Given their choices here it's hard to see how they can be justified to turn it down wholesale. They can certainly negotiate for changes to the plan, much like it looks like the staff already negotiated to get the connections to the apartment community included, but in the end they will likely need to approve the project or risk a less attractive option being developed in the future.

Last thought: if you changed the name of the petitioner from Walmart to Trader Joe's do you think people would be this hot and bothered?

Reading Mrs. Adkins

Anne Adkins has been writing an occasional column for the Winston-Salem Journal for a while now and I must say that, to me, her writing is consistently the best in the paper. From this Sunday's column

George got a job and over the next few months he paid back his loan and appeared to be doing just fine. In those years immediately following World War II, our generation was full of halcyon dreams springing from the conviction that after years of war, we would bring to the world lasting peace. Who would have thought that early one morning on a Virginia mountain road, George’s body would be found face-down in a ditch with a bullet hole in the back.

That was nearly three-quarters of a century ago. As far as I know, no one ever found out who killed George. As the years went by, Al and I, like most of our generation, worked hard, raised our kids, saw more wars come and some of them go, and squeezed the best part out of living. And like every generation before us, we also buried our dead.

Last week a beat-up, yellow truck sped past me on the highway. Suddenly the years peeled away, leaving me with the sharpness of a memory unexpectedly returned. I shut my eyes and there George was, my young lost friend, tossing me one more smile.

I smiled back at the bittersweet thought of a young lost friend who never had the chance to find his way, but for one shining moment in time was King of the Road, gridiron hero of the Golden Wave, the sweetest guy in town.