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PLANNING AHEAD

by Daniel Schere

Connecting West Salem key to South Central Area Plan

daniel@yesweekly.com | @Daniel_Schere

Big changes are in store for the area surrounding West Salem. The neighborhood that lies on the south side of Business 40 between Peters Creek Parkway and Broad Street contains a mix of residential development, businesses and undeveloped land. It does not see nearly the amount of traffic that the adjoining neighborhood on the north side of the interstate sees. The other side has the benefit of a baseball stadium and a new apartment complex in addition to its proximity to downtown Winston-Salem.

Plans for West Salem are described in the updated version of the South Central Winston-Salem Area Plan. Published in June, it lays out recommendations over the next 15 to 20 years for a 2400-acre area that extends from Northwest Boulevard at its northern edge to Interstate 40 at its southern border.

Among other things the plan addresses potential uses for land surrounding Piedmont International University “” a Bible school currently with more than 500 students. Recommendations include developing land on Green, Bank, Laurel and Academy streets into single-family residential units or duplexes. It also mentions developing the property at the corner of Green and Apple Street into a quadraplex or other multifamily housing development. The plan goes on to suggest using some of the university’s residence halls as residential family units in the future, and developing the campus activity center into a larger community center.

City Planning Director Paul Norby said in drafting the plan, the city is not mandating that the university relocate but is preparing for what will happen if it does.

“I don’t want to speak for them, but there’s been rumors around about whether they’re going to stay or whether they’re going to shrink in size and they’re going to sell off pieces,” he said. “We’re thinking all of those things are probably on the table so we thought this plan should be proactive and say, well if they do go here is a vision for the redevelopment of the area.”

Norby said the downtown employment base is expected to double to 40,000 over the next couple of decades.

“As there’s more and more folks that are coming in of a younger age to work in the research park or work in the medical center or whatever, there’s going to be more and more demand for people living either downtown or in the center city,” he said. “And that’s going to make neighborhoods like West Salem much more in demand for people like that.”

Norby said land on Broad Street would also need to be redeveloped into low-density office and residential space. The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently endorsed the Cherry/Marshall alternative for the Business 40 improvement project, which will close the Broad Street interchange beginning in 2016.

“If that’s totally redeveloped that’s a big game-changer for that area,” he said. “You have gas stations and all that around that interchange that are no longer going to be viable if it’s not an interchange anymore, so those all point toward being right for redevelopment.”

Chamber of Commerce president Gayle Anderson said she is not concerned about closing the Broad Street interchange, because it is close enough to the Peters Creek Parkway interchange for drivers.

“When the Peters Creek interchange is reconfigured, that’ll be eight lanes and the traffic will come off of Peters Creek,” she said. “It’s still going to come through that 4 th Street, Broad Street area to get to downtown.”

Anderson said she thinks the Royal Inn on Broad Street will eventually be sold. The hotel has been a hotbed for crime in recent years, prompting multiple complaints from nearby neighbors and a petition on change.org.

“I would be very surprised if down the road at some point, that somebody doesn’t purchase it and tear that hotel down and build something else there,” she said.

Anderson said she thinks it is more likely that the hotel will be redeveloped for another use than completely leveled.

At the center of the concept is the Green Street pedestrian bridge over Business 40 that will connect the area surrounding the ballpark with West Salem. The bridge project was rumored to be delayed when Councilwoman Molly Leight sent out an email September 30 in which she expressed outrage at the suggestion that the project would not happen.

“Now I hear that a big-money stakeholder in the ballpark area development (who could that possibly be?) wants to tear down Green St. overpass completely, presumably to keep the riffraff (that is us South Warders) from accessing the high end development he has planned for the area!” she wrote in the email.

Leight said in an interview that concerns from residents in West Salem about the bridge have been swirling for a couple of weeks, but so far none have been substantiated.

“I have received all sorts of reassurances right and left from people concerned with the area around the ballpark that oh no, there was never such intention of this.”

Councilman Dan Besse said he had communicated with DOT project engineer Pat Ivey, who dismissed any notion of the bridge not being included in the Business 40 improvement project.

“He responded that he had heard about that issue, but that the pedestrian bridge is included in both interchange alternatives that are being considered by NCDOT,” Besse said. “And he said I should be assured that the department will include the pedestrian bridge as part of the project.”

Ivey later confirmed in an interview that indeed the bridge will be moving forward. He said the total cost would be about $400,000 out of a $70 million operation that will see construction begin in 2016 and shut down part of the interstate for two years.

The Green Street Bridge was damaged in a trucking accident in 2006.

Ivey said it was never repaired due to the low volume of traffic on Green Street “At that time we were in the process of doing some preliminary planning and development on the Business 40 project, and we knew even at that time that it might be that we would be looking at a pedestrian bridge, because as you recall the ballpark was actually being developed at that time,” he said. “And we knew that part of the old Green Street was going to be removed. So we knew vehicular traffic was going to be taken off of Green Street.” !

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