It’s exciting to see continued development in Winston-Salem. Our economy is going strong, local jobs are on the increase (Metropolitan Winston-Salem had a 3.1% growth in non-farm employment between August of 2018 and August of 2019, the Journal reported, better than Charlotte or Raleigh) and people need places to live. New apartment complexes and other developments help us move forward toward more prosperity.
The Easley, a 300-unit apartment complex north of BB&T Ballpark, bordered by First, Second and Broad streets, was approved by the Winston-Salem City Council last week. Artists’ renderings make it look appealing even to people who wouldn’t reside there, with a small park on the north end of the site that includes a bike path. The complex will have a swimming pool, a clubhouse and a fitness center.
The Easley will be similar in design to the nearby West End Station apartment complex, which has the same developer, DPL Residential LLC of Charlotte.
This triangular section near the ballpark has been ripe for development for some time — it’s currently a near-eyesore no man’s land with nothing to offer but concrete. The complex will be an improvement almost by default.
One drawback for some is the loss of a block of Brookstown Avenue, which will have to be closed to accommodate the current plans. It’s not a major thoroughfare, but this segment has provided a handy shortcut for many. And with traffic currently being diverted because of the Business 40 construction, drivers crossing Broad Street have likely been placing themselves in increasing danger.
“The traffic situation is going to change when Business 40 opens and First and Second streets are two-way,” Northwest Ward Council Member Jeff MacIntosh said at the City Council meeting last week. “Everyone is going to have to learn a new traffic pattern whether Brookstown is closed or not.”
That part of the road has historic significance, though — it’s thought to have been a branch of the old Shallowford Road and the Fries plank road, dating back to the 18th century. It’s also the first road in Forsyth County to be paved, according to local historian Fam Brownlee. A historic marker wouldn’t be out of place.
When BB&T Ballpark began development some 10 years ago, early plans showed it surrounded by amenities like restaurants, shops and hotels, along with apartments. While apartment complexes have been multiplying, the other aspects haven’t panned out as expected.
An earlier design for The Easley site included a grocery store — an amenity that is sorely lacking downtown. Put the hundreds of downtown dwellers together with the hundreds of ballpark-area apartment residents and the hundreds who live in the West End, West Salem and Holly Street neighborhoods, and it seems that including a grocery store would be a home run.
Some have questioned: Just who is renting all of these high-end apartments? Is it all millennials who write code for a living? While the developments are attractive, many of them are out of reach for low-income workers and families. We want to see growth, but it would be tragic for Winston-Salem to become another Aspen or San Francisco, where the people who keep the city running can’t afford to live within its borders.
Twenty percent of the housing units in the Whitaker Park development are required by the city to be affordable to working people. Likewise, 30% of the units being built in the apartment complex next to 500 West Fifth Tower downtown will meet affordability requirements. We need more units like that.
So while we celebrate progress, let’s urge developers to have a little foresight and remember the human scale.