October 18, 2017

Downtown Winston-Salem Moves East-East End Plan Presented

Yesterday evening local residents gathered at First Calvary Baptist Church to learn about a massive development project, just east of the Innovation Quarter. The ambitious new project would completely reinvent roughly 170 acres between Highway 52, Business 40, and Martin Luther King Blvd.

The East End Plan presentation was very interesting. Ayers Saint Gross-a design firm out of Baltimore presented a myriad of ideas for what the East End of Winston could become.

East End is a new term for Winston. Winston has had a West End for over a century, but not an East End. It speaks to the fact that Councilmember Montgomery, S.G. Atkins CDC, and other stakeholders are planning a neighborhood on the other side of 52 that would match Winston’s West End in terms of wealth and amenities.

The County and City will have to work together to make the new East End a reality. This ambitious new project will require a political will and a level of funding that are hard to imagine in Forsyth County. If the East End becomes a reality, it would be an achievement much greater than the transformation of decaying R.J. Reynolds’ factories into the Innovation Quarter.

The principal question, beyond funding and timelines, is, what about the people who currently live in the neighborhood? How do we redevelop East Winston without pushing longtime residents out? Can we have a massive redevelopment of a neighborhood adjacent to Downtown Winston without causing more gentrification?

Councilmember Montgomery addressed the question of gentrification, that was posed to him by community members last night. He mentioned Goler’s development of 757 North. Goler received funding from the City in exchange for reserving a portion of their apartments for low-income residents.

But I don’t think that will be enough. It was telling that HAWS isn’t part of the proposed East End project. Mixed income development is fine. But public housing is needed to house the poorest among us-who are poor largely due to the legacies of slavery and segregation.

The destruction of public housing in Happy Hill and Kimberly Park, as well as the failure of HAWS to redevelop Cleveland Avenue after years of planning, means that residents that are pushed out of the new East End won’t have attractive alternatives in the surrounding neighborhoods.

All of East Winston has been waiting for decades for a plan that would bring it up to the socio-economic levels of the rest of the city. All of East Winston is starving for investment. Anyone who’s curious what institution racism looks like only needs to drive through East Winston.

East Winston, defined loosely as the neighborhoods east of Highway 52 has been ignored by city and county planners for years. East Winston suffered from Urban Renewal and the growth of interstate highways like no other portion of the city. Belews Street and Depot Street were two thriving Black neighborhoods that were bulldozed to facilitate Reynolds’ expansion and Highway 52’s construction.

In the East End Winston has a chance to recreate the Belews Street and Depot Street neighborhoods that are long gone. If and when the East End actually becomes a reality, it must have a fundamental Black character and there must be space for the poor in the new East End.

 

 

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