We’ve talked about the plan to completely shut down Business 40 for more than a dozen years now, and at this point we’re more than a month into the grim reality. So far, it seems, so good. The plan is to make the highway safer and better equipped to handle the traffic that has come with more than 50 years of growth since the highway first opened.
But early on, local activists realized that this is more than just a highway plan. It was an opportunity. For transformation, for expression, for making a statement about this city of arts and innovation. And thus the Creative Corridors Coalition was formed.
The plan is to not just build a road but a public arts space with enhancements up and down the project and a new look when the highway finally reopens sometime in 2020.
That’s our conversation in this episode of Twin City Talks. Our guests are Bill Davis, co-chairman of the board Creative Corridors Coalition, and Pat Ivey, the NCDOT division engineer whose area includes Business 40.
Davis says it was Milton Rhodes, the former director of the city’s Arts Council, who first got people together to talk about making a statement with the massive highway makeover.
“None of us had ever done anything like this before,” Davis says.
Monthly meetings led to a plan that got started with a $200,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to do a study of what could be done.
Behind the designs that emerged were two internationally known designers – Donald MacDonald, known for his work on the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, S.C. and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; and Walter Hood, a Charlotte native now living in California who is best known for his landscape architecture.
MacDonald designed the twin arches that are already up over U.S. 52, as well as the pedestrian bridge plan for Green Street.
Hood designed a pedestrian and bike strollway that will cross the revamped highway at Liberty Street. It will include planting beds on either side of the walkway with native plants and ornamental trees.
The group’s ideas were ambitious, and not everything is going to become reality, at least not immediately. One of those is a plan to adorn the new Peter’s Creek Parkway bridge with spires reminiscent of a Moravian star.
Davis says there’s not enough money to do that project, so they’re focusing instead on the pedestrian bridges. The way the bridge has been built, though, would allow that plan to be completed in the future if the money can be raised for it.
Ivey says the word on the Creative Corridors plan has gotten out to planners across the country and is becoming a model for other communities.
“When I tell people that, through a variety of funding sources, that the locals – Creative Corridors and the City of Winston-Salem – provided almost $10 million in additional funding for betterments and enhancements to the Business 40 project, they are absolutely amazed,” he says. “We have a blueprint now.”
Davis says Winston-Salem’s commitment to the arts is what made the idea a reality.
“Most communities just wouldn’t have done this,” he says.