December 11, 2018

Collapse Of Nissen Wagon Works: A Lost Opportunity

Monday afternoon the historic Nissen Wagon Works building on Waughtown Street collapsed. The Winston-Salem Journal reported that the weight of this weekend’s snowfall was too much for the old building’s roof to support. We can only assume that the structure that has sat idle for many years will be condemned and bulldozed.

Soon, only the historical marker outside of the Nissen Wagon Works will be left to tell the historical sites’ story. For decades Nissen produced many of the wagons that hauled tobacco into Winston. 

It’s a shame that that building wasn’t rehabilitated and re-purposed in the 2000s when so many historic buildings in Downtown Winston were brought back to life. In turn, those former downtown tobacco and textile buildings gave new life to Downtown Winston.

Back then historic tax breaks were generously flowing from the General Assembly. But the Nissen Wagon Works missed that wave of redevelopment. The Nissen Building on Fourth Street was redevloped during the early 2000s with a generous mixture of public and private funds. 

The few historical industrial buildings in neighborhoods of color weren’t restored into upscale apartments and condos. Old plants along Ivey Avenue and North Patterson are still industrial. 

But at least they’re something. The old Nissen Wagon Works building has sat vacant and unused for years. The penalty for holding that property and not developing it was only a $7,560.83 tax bill (2018) on a property that had a total assessed value of $572,400, according to tax records. 

The old Nissen Wagon Works could have been used to rejuvenate Southeast Winston-Salem, but disinterested real estate interests on Trade Street that owned the property failed to invest in it. They put their profits over the interests of the Southeast Ward. 

The Winston-Salem City Council has invested in a WSPD substation beside of the former Nissen Wagon Works. They’ve also subsidized the SouthEast Plaza shopping center just down the road with RUCA funds. But they just sat back and watched the Nissen Wagon Works crumble to the ground, a victim of neglect and misplaced priorities.

SouthEast Plaza owner José Isasi is a favorite of the Winston-Salem City Council. The money the Council has invested in Isasi over the years could have gotten development at the former Nissen Wagon Works started. 

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