We’ve been here before.
Winston-Salem has seen what seemed to be bedrocks of our local economy shift and rumble, leading to stress for a significant numbers of employees, customers and residents — more than once. Each time was a struggle, but we emerged from the challenge stronger than before.
As Truist — the entity resulting from the merger of BB&T and Sun Trust Banks — shifts its footprint and rolls much of its talent and capital southward to a new home in Charlotte, the tremors are inevitable. But eventually, it will be yesterday’s news as Winston-Salem rises to further success.
Though Truist would like to reassure the public that it’s not abandoning Winston-Salem — its community/retail banking hub remains here — its departure from the downtown Second Street building that served as BB&T’s corporate headquarters for 25 years has already caused a seismic shift. Changes like this are not just financial; they affect the way we see ourselves as a community.
But community leaders remain upbeat, looking down the road to new opportunities.
“Winston-Salem’s efforts over the years to redevelop available buildings prove that smart strategy can create thriving districts,” Mark Owens, president and chief executive of Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, told the Journal’s Richard Craver.
“We’ve seen it in the Innovation Quarter, 500 West 5th, Industry Hill, the Kimpton Cardinal (hotel), the arts district, and more.
“Reinvention is in our DNA, and we will approach this property with as much effort and dedication as our community has with those other projects in the past,” Owens said.
The evidence also exists in the other five signature towers downtown, all of which lost major tenants, only to be revived as multi-tenant use buildings, as the Journal reported Monday. The most recent example is our neighbor, 500 West 5th tower, the former GMAC building, which, after its purchase by Affiliate Flow — a $6.14 million purchase accompanied by $10 million in renovations — now provides office space for a variety of businesses including Flow Automotive; sock manufacturer Renfro Corp.; Flywheel, a co-networking space provider; Teall Capital Partners; Winston Starts, a nonprofit group that works with startup businesses; a loan-production office for Select Bank; co-developer Grubb Properties; and Creative CoWorks, an initiative between the UNC School of the Arts and Kenan Institute for the Arts. A new apartment complex is also being built on part of the property. The variety of businesses making use of the property means that the owner won’t have to rely on only one to make the investment worthwhile.
Diversity, you might say, is our strength.
Still, the challenge is real. It may be years before the former home of BB&T reaches full occupancy. In the meantime, one casualty of Truist’s move is Providence Kitchen restaurant, which operated on the first floor of the tower for nearly a year and a half. There aren’t enough customers now to keep the restaurant open. It was part of an initiative of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina that offers training and experience to unemployed and underemployed people to become cooks. Hundreds of them have gone on to work in local restaurants.
Fortunately, its eight employees have been offered jobs at the program’s first location, Providence Restaurant on University Parkway, Chef Jeff Bacon, the executive director of Providence Restaurant and Catering, told the Journal. The need is there; the workers are there; we hope another opportunity will soon arise for this worthwhile endeavor.
We’re sure our city’s leadership will be hard at work filling the current gaps. If our city’s history has taught us anything, it’s that every setback is temporary.