Creative Corridors Coalition brings unique infrastructure designs to Winston-Salem

by Chanel Davis

A group of visionaries hope to make Winston-Salem’s infrastructures aesthetically pleasing to residents and motorists passing through while offering a way to keep communities connected.

The Creative Corridors Coalition was formed in 2011 by residents wanting to ensure that future roads and highways reflected the character and uniqueness of the city known for being a leader in arts and innovation. A grant was procured from the National Endowments for the Arts and found local matching funds to create a masterplan as to how best to execute that vision. In creating the masterplan, coalition members met with residents at churches, community centers, and events all over the city to hear from thousands of people.

In the fall of 2014, the volunteer-driven nonprofit focused and raised funds for six main projects and to hire designers specializing in bridge and roadway design to team up with city-contracted architects at Stimmel Associates.

“It’s the legacy of the automobiledominated 20th century that highways and roads were placed strategically and served to divide neighborhoods across the country,” said Kristen Haaf, project manager for Creative Corridors. “They divided downtown Winston-Salem and East Winston-Salem. They divided the historic Winston and historic Salem area and neighborhoods to the southeast like Happy Hill, were subdivided due to US. 52. We have highways that have obliterated neighborhoods. We are trying to create not just physical connections but also symbolic connections to say ‘this is a whole city and everybody matters here.'” There were six projects chosen after setting a fundraising goal of $5.2 million: The Twin Arches, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive enhancements, a Strollway Pedestrian Bridge, the Green Street Pedestrian Bridge, the Peter’s Creek Parkway Bridge and various enhancements to the Business 40 corridor.

Though a nonprofit, Creative Corridors accepts any amount of donations for funding its projects, whether it’s $5 from an interested resident or $5,000 from a local business or corporation. By piggy backing on projects under or in the beginning phase of construction, the group is able to cut costs for the city or state.

It’s the legacy of the automobile-dominated 20th century that highways and roads were placed strategically and served to divide neighborhoods across the country…

“Those funds make up a small percentage of the overall cost of a project but we’ve seen that small percentage can make a big difference in terms of the character and development of a project,” Haaf said. “Even where there are matching funds, the city or state is covering more of the basic infrastructure cost and we’re covering the enhancements cost.”

Toneq’ M. McCullough, director of transportation for the city, said that they’re excited about the project, the improvements it will provide and the inter-agency collaboration to transform the project.

“The project enhancements will blend together design elements of renowned bridge designers, artists, landscape architects and the recommendations from citizens participating in multi-year public involvement processes,” she said.

The first project to be completed will be the Twin Arches. Acting as a gateway to the southern area of Downtown, the arches will span the interchange where Research Parkway goes under US 52, leading to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The area is expected to see a high volume of traffic when Business 40 closes for construction in 2018.

The project, which is estimated to cost $1.65 million, is funded by an 80/20 match from the state, city and nonprofit. The state, through the federal government, will pay for 80 percent of the project, while the city and Creative Corridors will each contribute 10 percent. For Creative Corridors that would be $950,000 from its private funds.

The non-structural arches were designed by bridge architect Donald Mac- Donald, known for his work on the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, S.C. MacDonald spent time in the city looking at the architecture and studying the Moravian Arts before coming up with the design.

“The Twin Arches design mimics some of the things he found in architecture around our city and in the Moravian arts. That was the inspiration for this,” Haaf said.

The project is expected to be completed in the fall, although the date is still unknown. According to Haaf, an event will be held so residents can see the vision come together. The arches will be erected between midnight and 6 a.m., as to not interfere with traffic.

The second project will focus on enhancing the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Corridor. An estimated $3.2 million has been set aside, with $325,000 of that privately funded, for intersection designs, landscaping and artwork that would be done following an engineering study completed by the Winston-Salem Department of Streets. According to Haaf, this project will take the community to complete.

“The charge for Creative Corridors is to integrate public arts into that corridor. We’re working with a group that has already spent quite a bit of time with business owners, community members and those who live near or on MLK, Jr. Drive,” she said. “We’re hoping to get more information about what they would like to see dealing with public art. We will be looking at banners and story boards on how to reflect the stories and history of this particular corridor.”

The Strollway Pedestrian Bridge is the third project to be completed and the first land bridge in North Carolina, according to the Creative Corridors Coalition. The bridge, designed by landscape architect Walter Hood, will be at the center of town and will replace the current walkway between Cherry and Liberty streets.

The state Department of Transportation will lower Business 40 by about 20 feet at that location, according to Haaf, and had planned to create a path underneath the highway before Creative Corridors asked for a pedestrian bridge instead, citing that it would be cheaper.

The bridge itself will include 12-footwide walkways to allow both pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It will have planting beds integrated into the bridge on either side of the walkway along with other shrubs and plants. The estimated cost is $1.4 million with private dollars being $980,000 of funding.

“When on the strollway your walking in an environment that has trees and feels park-like. As you go over the highway, that park-like environment will continue,” Haaf emphasized.

The fourth project is the Green Street Pedestrian Bridge. This bridge, also designed by MacDonald, will serve as a western gateway into downtown connecting the West Salem neighborhood with the BB&T Ballpark. The Green Street bridge was already scheduled for construction, according to Haaf, so Creative Corridors Coalition wanted to be involved in the process.

“This was a pedestrian bridge that was already going to be happening between the West Salem neighborhood and the ballpark,” Haaf said. “Creative Corridors is paying to enhance the bridge over the standard concrete slab and chain link fence.”

The contemporary bridge design will have steel arches that rise above the bridge. MacDonald drew his inspiration from the arching form of regional oak trees. The proposed project cost total is $2.8 million with $2 million coming from private funds.

The fifth project for the nonprofit is still just an idea and Haaf calls it complicated. The Peters Creek Parkway Bridge, located near the BB&T Ballpark, has to have a federally mandated sound wall on top of the bridge and Creative Corridors will need to design around that.

“We are looking at using public art to enhance the bridge. Whether or not we’re able to achieve certain enhancements depends on fundraising during initial construction but we are looking to integrate public art,” Haaf said.

Although the project cost has yet to be determined, Creative Corridors Coalition has tapped artist Larry Kirkland to help them develop a public art and lighting strategy for the bridge. He suggested using large sculptures on the four corners of the bridge and lighting along the sound wall.

The last project listed is to provide enhancements along Business 40. The nonprofit is looking to replace or upgrade street lights, walls, landscaping and railings along the highway through downtown Winston-Salem beyond the typical NCDOT standard.

“We were able to get the state to raise their standard. Instead of bland concrete walls there will actually be brick on some of the walls as you move through the center of town,” Haaf said. “Creative Corridors is paying for lighting hookups on every new bridge developed through the downtown area.”

The City of Winston-Salem has earmarked $3 million in funds from the 2014 Bond Referendum toward the work on Business 40. The projected cost of the project is $6.7 million with $107,400 of those funds privately-donated.

Haaf says that Creative Corridors has received positive and supportive feedback from individuals and businesses in the community.

“In the 21st century we are paying attention to who lives where we put these highways, the communities there, and what the quality of life is going to be like for them. Winston Salem, after the development of these projects, is going to be at the forefront of infrastructure planning in North Carolina and the country,” she said. “These pieces of infrastructure are lasting assets that are going to be in our communities for years to come. It’s really exciting for everybody to be a part of that community building.” !

CHANEL DAVIS, a journalism graduate from N.C.A&T SU, is a freelance journalist based in High Point whose worked in the industry for the past five years.