There was a time when the neighborhood near the corner of Fourth and Patterson streets in downtown Winston-Salem had nothing to offer besides an authentic slice of urban decay and a safe space for open-air crack-smoking.
Good luck trying to find a parking spot here now.
Krankies still anchors the corner as the Innovation Quarter rises around it, and what was once a gravelly parking lot bejeweled with broken glass now contains the expanse of Bailey Park. Even the old Bailey Power Plant is coming into play here, soon to be another exemplar of the three Rs of gentrification: retail, restaurants and residential.
Already, more people live in this neighborhood than have in generations.
“There’s a new dog out here every day,” says Blake Tesh, coolly drawing on a cigarette outside Mesmerizer Records, the latest in the ongoing entrepreneurial efforts pegged to this part of the city. “I never forget a dog.”
Mesmerizer is new, owned by Amanda Lindsey who’s nearby flipping through a stack of records. Her place fills out the slim corner storefront next to the Black Lodge bar, a sort of covert clubhouse for the city’s creative underclass. This block serves as a cultural stronghold amid the towers of innovation, a key placement in the arms race between arts and innovation that has transformed this city dramatically over the last five years.
Tesh waves his cigarette towards the south, where a railroad spur slowly transforms into a public walkway not unlike the High Line in New York City.
“It’s pretty cool,” he says. “They light it up at night.”
Across Third Street, along the fanned-out brickwork of the old Nissen wagonworks — now the Black Horse artists’ studio and event space — the path climbs to the new Long Branch Trail, which will eventually merge with the bike path along Business 40 and wind around this southeast corner of downtown to join with new development along the center city’s eastern flank. Now, wood boards lay in a stack along the unfinished deck of the trail, but the railing is up and the space is open to the public.
Leaning against the rail, onlookers can take in the skyline jutted with water towers and smokestacks. And if they squint just a bit, they can see Tesh and Lindsey monitoring the sidewalk from a bench outside the store, looking for new pups.