Today’s a good day to check out two high-profile city projects, as both Hanes Park on the west side of downtown, and Union Station on the east, are holding celebrations.
At Hanes Park, the city is celebrating the park’s 100th birthday, but it is also a chance for people who haven’t been there lately to see the many improvements that were paid for with bonds that were approved by city voters in 2014.
Those features include a renovation to the main entrance of the park that involved replacing damaged sections of stonework, and installing new landscaping and seating around the park playground.
New entrances were added on the east side of the park, and stone seating walls were created for people to sit on while viewing tennis.
Some of the work is still in progress: Over on the southwest corner of the park, near the intersection of Hawthorne Road and Glade Street, work is going forward on the construction of what’s called, in park circles, an area for passive recreation.
“It’s an area for people to use to enjoy the beauty of the park, and have the chance to be in a quiet place,” said William Royston, the director of recreation and parks for the city. “It will have an open patio area.”
Work is also progressing on the creation of a new softball field.
The park centennial celebration starts at 11 a.m. near the track, and the first 100 people will get a centennial gift. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with music, food trucks, games, sports and other activities. For a complete listing, go to www.cityofws.org/news.
Events at Union Station start at 10 a.m., and will give the general public a chance to tour the historic building and see what’s been done to restore it to the way it looked when it was a train station.
Mayor Allen Joines, members of the city council and state and federal officials are expected to be on hand to cut the ribbon, and there will be exhibits, music, refreshments and children’s activities.
The three-level building is unusual in that the main level is on the top floor, with a middle floor below that and a ground floor where people once made their way to the trains at a lower level.
The bottom floor has been converted into a new headquarters for the city department of transportation. Traffic signal operations are already in the renovated building, said Damon Dequenne, the assistant city manager, with the rest of the department moving over the next several months.
Dequenne said Winston-Salem State University is negotiating to put some administrative offices on the middle floor.
On the top floor, the city is still searching for a restaurant operator to occupy most of the leasable space. Earlier negotiations to have an Elizabeth’s Pizza fell through, and the city is in the process of taking proposals from other would-be tenants, Dequenne said.
“Right now, we have two letters of interest from potential restaurant operations,” Dequenne said. “I know there are at least three more that are potentially coming in. I told everyone to get those submitted by the middle of this month. (Then) we have to convene a committee to evaluate them.”
It is still far too soon to say when the new restaurant might open, Dequenne said, since a lot depends on how the lease is structured and how soon everything comes together.
The restaurant won’t occupy the entire top floor, since much of the area consists of the restored train station lobby that will include exhibits on the history of the building.
Until the new restaurant is up and running, Dequenne said, the building will only be open on a limited basis for the general public to come in and take a look.
“Right now, we are trying to evaluate how often we are going to schedule tours of the facility,” Dequenne said.
“We are thinking once or twice a month. We are thinking about regularly-scheduled tour hours where folks can come in.”
Union Station was built in 1926 and served as a train station until the end of scheduled passenger-train service in 1970. For more than 30 years, the building was used as an auto-repair garage. In 1997 it was designated a local historic landmark and in 1998 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2010 the city bought the building, and in 2014 the City Council approved the use of limited-obligation bonds to finance its restoration for use as a transit center and other purposes.
The project budget totaled $19.3 million, including $16.8 million in limited-obligation bonds, $1.9 million in federal funding, $374,000 from the city’s capital projects fund and $24,500 from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
For more information on the celebration of the restoration, visit the same site as for the Hanes Park announcement.