July 24, 2017

More Ballpark Development Delays

Scott Sexton just reported that the former Royal Inn on Broad and Green Streets is again up for sale. The redevelopment of the Royal Inn has stalled. The much hyped Brookstown District at BB&T Ballpark has also stalled, though Winston’s newspaper of record has failed to report on that.

It looks like development around BB&T Ballpark will have to wait until after Business 40 is transformed into Salem Parkway. That means 2020 at the earliest. This is another reminder that Winston isn’t Charlotte or the Triangle, development is more difficult here. We shouldn’t necessarily imitate the development patterns that the state’s larger cities are engaged in.

I look forward to the Winston-Salem Journal thoroughly examining what exactly has stalled the Brookstown District at BB&T Ballpark. To review this topic here’s an article that I originally posted on September 27, 2015, under the title Ballpark Development Will Proceed Without Affordable Housing:

The Winston-Salem City Council voted to approve incentives for luxury apartments and restaurant/retail development on the northeast side of BB&T Ballpark. Though the city council voiced some misgivings about giving more funds to a project that the city has already spent millions on, the vote passed easily, 7-1.

 

In this public and private partnership between Brand Development Corporation and the City of Winston-Salem, the city will provide $8 million for a parking deck and Brand promises to deliver 100-150 service jobs, as well as construction jobs. What most interested the city council was Brand’s commitment to bring a grocery store to downtown Winston. A grocery store is the one thing that downtown Winston lacks.

Of course, the entire reason that BB&T Ballpark was built was to further downtown development. Specifically, BB&T Ballpark has promoted development in West Salem. There has been a gulf between Downtown Winston and West Salem for years. BB&T Ballpark’s construction pushed out some working class black families and paved the way for upscale development in West Salem.

As the building of BB&T Ballpark was plagued by false-starts and controversy, so the development around BB&T Ballpark has had trouble getting off the ground.The Link Apartments Brookstown opened without a hitch last fall, directly across from the ballpark. But a planned office building project was abandoned by Lindbrook Development in 2011.

In May, Brand announced a much more ambitious plan for developing the land around BB&T Ballpark. The initial phase calls for “300,000 sq. ft. of retail; 300,000 sq. ft. of office space; 250 hotel rooms and 580 luxury residential flats.” The City of Winston just approved $8 million in funding for a parking deck to compliment Brand’s $53 million scaled-back development. $8 million may not be too high a price for the city to pay for Brand’s initial proposal, but it feels like a steep price for their current plans.

Office space and an upscale hotel are now slated to be part of the second phase of construction. In addition, an affordable housing component that some council members advocated strongly for is also scheduled to be part of the second phase of construction.

Councilman Montgomery stated that he was tired of telling his constitutes to wait to receive some benefit for the city’s projects. Montgomery wanted affordable housing included this phase of construction.

Councilman McIntosh stated that the city has “primed the pump,” it is time for the city to step back and let the private sector pay for downtown development. McIntosh is right, it’s time for the city to stop subsidizing profitable businesses (CAT, Herbalife, BB&T Ballpark, shopping centers, restaurants, etc).

The city needs to make affordable housing a priority. Instead, the city seems to believe that they can subsidize affluent development and that it will somehow trickle down to ordinary folks in Winston. This is wishful thinking. If the city actually wanted to fund affordable housing, then it could, there are opportunists everywhere.

The Royal Inn on Broad Street closed after being pressured by the city. The motel is just sitting there, unused, a mere stone’s throw away from BB&T Ballpark. It wouldn’t be that difficult for the city to turn the Royal Inn into affordable housing. The city should have insisted that the redevelopment of the Royal Inn be included in phase one of the Brookstown Development. After all, phase two may never come.

Even if Brand is able to complete the second phase, Brand may wiggle out of including affordable housing in phase two. Remember, commitments to the poor are soon forgotten by politicians.

 

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