Winston-Salem fast-tracks public safety and parks bond projects

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by Jordan Green

The rollout of Winston-Salem’s $139.2 million voter-approved bond is resulting in significant projects in outlying areas of all of the city’s wards.

Three new district police stations. Spraygrounds at nine parks across the city. A scenic quarry with an observation deck linked by a greenway. An east-side park with a lazy river. Street resurfacing, sidewalk construction and child pedestrian safety programs. A road widening project at Meadowlark Drive with a greenway. A street diet on Polo Road making room for a bike lane. Repair of brick sidewalks at Old Salem.

Those are only a few of the many projects underway or slated to be contracted out in the next eight months across Winston-Salem’s eight wards as part of a $139.2 million bond approved by voters last November.

And that doesn’t even count $37.8 million earmarked for the renovation of Union Station and the Benton Convention Center, along with improvements to the Business 40 corridor, leveraged from limited obligation bonds.

City leaders emphasized during a council meeting on Monday that they plan to spend the money quickly so that residents in all eight wards can see the results right away.

“This is one of those meetings that I think is going to be pretty fun in that we’re getting a report from staff on bond projects the voters approved last November from the east to the west and north to south,” Mayor Allen Joines said. “We told the voters we would spent the money quickly and report back.”

City Manager Lee Garrity said the last time Winston-Salem voters approved a bond issue, it took the city about 13 years to spend the funds.

“It’s not going to take 13 years this time,” he said. “We’re probably going to have it spent in four to five years.”

Out of $31 million approved for public safety projects, the most noticeable investment for many residents will likely be the construction of three new district police stations under a redeployment plan previously approved by city council.

The District 2 station, serving the southeast area of the city, breaks ground on Sept. 11 on the site of the old Lucia Apparel Group Outlet Store on Waughtown Street. The site is next door to the historic Nissen Wagon Works, which dates back to in 1834, according to a state historical highway marker.

Two other district police stations will be built on North Point Boulevard and Winterhaven Lane on the northern and western sides of the city respectively. The city has budgeted a total of $9 million for the three projects.

Other allocations for public safety include $7 million to renovate the second floor of the Alexander Beaty Public Safety Training and Support Center on Patterson Street for a forensic crime lab, fire training facility and evidence storage center; and $10 million for renovations of the Public Safety Center on Cherry Street. The 1983 building needs a new HVAC system, plumbing and electrical upgrades, and a new security system.

Among the more novel projects included in the $30.9 million parks and recreation bond is development of the former Vulcan Quarry in southeast Winston-Salem as a new park. The $4 million project includes construction of an observation pier and lawn amphitheater. Funded separately under the streets and sidewalks bond, the city has allocated $1 million to build a greenway connecting the Waughtown Street area to the quarry, along with the Peachtree Greenway, Reynolds Park and the Anderson Recreation Center.

“At the end of the pier you can see the Winston-Salem skyline,” City Engineer Robert Prestwood said. “I’m told on a very clear day you can see Pilot Mountain.”

Also budgeted at $4 million, renovations of Winston Lake Park on the east side feature a new splash park and lazy river, along with a conventional swimming pool.

Contracts for both the quarry and Winston Lake Park projects are expected to come before city council in January.

Along with development, renovation and repair projects at 16 other parks across the city’s eight wards, the bond also includes funds for spraygrounds at nine different parks.

Councilwoman Denise D. Adams said she was grateful that her constituents would get a sprayground at a location on Bethabara Park Boulevard.

“All up and down Reynolda Road we have sidewalks,” she said, “but people say, ‘We have no place for the children to go.’

“It was strategically placed so children don’t have to cross the street,” she added. “No parent wants their children to cross Reynolda Road.”

The street marks the boundary between the North Ward, which Adams represents, and the Northwest Ward.

Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke said she was gratified to see a $150,000 investment in the Bowen Boulevard Park in the Northeast Ward, which will pay for a new bathroom facility. She said her initial run for city council in the 1970s came about because her plea to city council to improve the park fell on deaf ears. When she eventually got elected, she said, she made the park her first order of business.

Along with $15.3 million for street resurfacing, $10 million for sidewalk construction and repairs and $1.8 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects, the transportation bond also includes funds to revamp two significant thoroughfares. The bond allocates $5.6 million for the widening of Meadowlark Drive on the west side to alleviate traffic congestion. The project includes a parallel multi-use path connected by a crosswalk to the Village at Robinhood shopping center. And a $2 million improvement project on Polo Road will reduce the street from four to three lanes while adding sidewalks, bike lanes and a linear park.

Mayor Joines congratulated City Manager Garrity on the rollout of the bond projects.

“I’m impressed by the amount of work that’s been done by you and your staff,” he said.