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What downtown Winston-Salem needs is...


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When I moved to Winston-Salem in 2002 to start a new job, downtown Winston was pretty depressing. Very little to do, not too many places to eat and no real incentive to hang around after work. In the past four years though, through steady persistent work on behalf of the city, developers, and businesses and more than a bit of hope and good fortune, downtown Winston is recovering and poised to return to something of its former glory.

The original centerpiece of downtown development was the Restuarant Row program which has succeeded quite well despite some notably losses like the Indian restaurant Kababs. The Arts District is coming along nicely with art gallery and craft stores with a few restaurants tossed into the mix.

Yet restaurants and art galleries is not enough to create a vibrant self-sustaining downtown that can take care of itself without the need for civic funding. People need more of a reason to come downtown other than seeing a painting or grab a bite at Mellow Mushroom. For the people living downtown, there has to be enough things downtown so that they do not have to travel to Stratford Rd or Hanes Mall.

So what are the sort of things that downtown Winston-Salem needs to be more well-rounded and be an alternative place to go for shopping and entertainment?

Let me throw a few things out there:

  • Upscale men's salon - I used to go to American Male salon when it was in the tower at One West Fourth. It was great getting a hair cut during working hours and get a relaxing shoulder massage as necessary. But the location killed it as few people knew that it actually existed. So now it is gone and there is no other place downtown to get a great hair cut. So now I go to Great Clips at a strip mall. A street level barber shop/hair salon along Fourth or Trade will do well I figure. There is a new Spa opening up at the Embassy Suites for the ladies but gentlement do not have an alternative.

  • Performing Arts theatre - this was considered to be one of the main structures for Unity Place when the initial plans came out. With that failure, troupes like the Little Theatre have remained far from downtown where I think it will thrive. A small theatre with the abiltity to hold small and mid-size productions for upwards of three hundred people in attendence is required. As for location, it is important to leverage all of the new restaurant development along Fourth and in the Arts District because people will make a night out of it with a dinner and a show and they probably would like to walk from the restuarant directly to the theatre without returning to their car. I would favor the Arts District area over Fourth primarily because there is more land available there for redevelopment particularly along Liberty St and I think the Arts District is going to see an surge in restuarant dining if a theatre with regular productions is located there.

  • Gourmet Food Shop- for better or for worse, the new residential developments downtown seem fixatated on the higher end of the price scale which tend to be the market for young upscale professionals and well-off retirees. One aspect of this market is that they take their dining seriously but probably can not afford to eat out all of the time. A gourmet food store, not a grocery store per se, that can offer a variety of expensive food stuffs like imported cheeses and meats may do well. 6th and Vine I think has a side business in retailing wine and there is the Farmers' Market nearby during the growing season. That helps provide for part of the need. Being a high margin type of store will go part way to address the low volumes of the local market. It may act also a store of last resort for the restuarants in the area if they run out of something during the course of the day.

  • Book store (new or used) - I like to think that a downtown without a bookstore of any sort can not be considered a true downtown especially one with an arts district. Despite being the Internet Age, people still read books, magazines and newspapers. Yet there is no outlet downtown that sells these items inclusively. I would like to think that as part of the downtown experience, someone getting up on a Saturday from the Gallery Lofts would stroll over to the Arts District, get a few papers, stroll over to Chelsee's for a cappucino, have a relaxing read of the news and be smiling to himself that it is moments like this that he was glad that he moved downtown. As for the type of bookstore, I would favor an used bookstore with a newspaper and periodical section as I think people would still go to Barnes and Noble or Borders to pick up the new releases of books unless this bookstore specialises in a certain subject like cooking or childrens.

No doubt there are more suggestions out there on what downtown needs to become more developed and not just in retail stores but community things like a park or two.

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It would be great if downtown had alot of public places such as more mini parks and plazas for every section of downtown. These spaces are very important for an urban environment. Also move the Dixie Classic fairgrounds from the coliseum to downtown. Very few cities have fairs or carnivals downtown. Downtown does needs more entertainment options and it doesnt have to be a bunch of night clubs although some are needed. Maybe a bowling alley or ice skating rink would be nice. I also say the city should sell the coliseum to Wake Forest since they use it as its home court for basketball anyways and the city should build a downtown arena preferablle near the Benton Convention Center so Winston-Salem could attract more and larger conventions. Id like to hear more music downtown. Music attracts people and its great to hear the sounds of Jazz while walking down the street.

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More of this kind of building...


I've been saying for some time now, they should be giving some focus to this kind of construction rather than mega condo projects exclusively. Lining the streets with this kind of development. It would help "flesh out" the big gaping holes of DT. and help connect and bind it together, especially with some projects i.e. WEV being outside of the main DT area.

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I would like to see more of a "club" district closer to restaurant row and would like to see some alternative clubs down there as well.

I would like to see a grocery store as well, and it needs to trend higher end but not necessarily be high-end completely. Any food store will have to incorporate a deli/sandwich/coffee shop to help bring in neccessary operating funds.

I too think someway to expand the convention center would be a boon to downtown, but right now it seems as if we're landlocked unless we got creative with the surface lots behind the center.

There's some low level chatter I hear about a food store, but nothing concrete yet...

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All of these are great ideas. Anything (tasteful) would be worthwhile.

Most of the following have been proposed and discussed on this and other fora.

Turn the old Bailey Power Plant into a museum of industry focusing on industrial development and inventions of the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Also, include something to make it a destination (a similar building in Baltimore's Inner Harbor comes to mind). This is where IMAX should locate a theater, not in the West End. Some sort of theme destination here is needed; I know NASCAR backed out as did Duncan's Caribbean theme place.

Wake Forest should expand and move its very good, but under utilized Museum of Anthropology downtown. Maybe the now abandoned Courthouse could be revamped for this if it's not to be repalaced with a second condo tower?

Wake Forest should also build a unique building/museum and display (after repairing) the Civil War Cyclerama. As I recall, there were four made; one is in Atlanta, one at the nuseum in Gettysburg, one was destroyed, and the only other one is in storage at Wake Forest, and is for sale. It was donated by the popular, somewhat famous, and slightly eccentric painter from W-S, Joe King. I think this would be a major attraction.

Build a unique library to replace the aging and overcrowded one to be a tower with retail, condos, etc as well as the library (see W-S Skyscrpapers forum).

Expand and emphasize Salem Creek as a true Riverwalk through the Southeast Gateway, which to me is on the edge of downtown, or at least a transition area.

I agree, a bookstore is necesssary, but even though I love and frequeent used book stores, most don't, and so I beleive a Barnes & Noble is needed as part of the retail at Civic Plaza. A large one was in the original idea for the Southeast Gateway, but it failed because of textbook concession problems. They should be lured back to downtown.

The Benton Convention Center should be greatly expanded or even razed, and replaced with a true state of the art facility thrice the size, which would likely lure another tower hotel and attract national conventions.

Proceed with all haste on the downtown baseball complex, and as suggested add a downtown arena to the notion.

Highly controversial, I know (even with myself), but upgrade, even commercialize, if you prefer something at Old Salem (preferably adjacent) to promote sagging attendance. Expand the Oktoberfest in accordance with the Moravian/German heritage.

A full service supermarket - a national chain version with gourmet stuff (I'd prefer Lowes though since it's based in W-S).

And definitely eliminate green 40 as a designation; it must be some sort of real Interstate designation such as I 1040 (the nation's first 4-digit interstate), or maybe better couple it with US 421, and make I 477, which would give W-S an I 77 connection (as it recently achievd an I 85 connection with I 285).

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