Friday, May 24, 2024

Triad: New Salem

By Emory Rakestraw

Can an aging, much-maligned 57-year-old downtown expressway become an attractive asset for a city that wants to be known for its creativity? Winston-Salem will find out over the next three years as a public-private partnership improves a stretch of Business 40, now rebranded as Salem Parkway. The goal is to accelerate the momentum of the city’s downtown, which has come alive with more than $1 billion of investment in medical and research buildings, hotels, art galleries, restaurants and bars.

The N.C. Department of Transportation, along with federal and local governments, is investing $100 million to improve Business 40’s pavement and ramps by 2020. What makes the Twin City effort unusual is $5 million in private funding to pay for distinctive bridges, arches, landscaping and lighting — the “nice to have” stuff that rarely gets built.

Community leaders, including former Old Salem Museums & Gardens CEO Lee French, started discussing the project more than a decade ago, with the nonprofit Creative Corridors Coalition getting serious about moving forward in 2011, says Kristen Haaf, the group’s chairwoman.

The move addresses a curvy stretch of the freeway with complicated access points and rusty bridges that have long frustrated commuters, who often have to stop before entering the highway as cars in adjoining lanes roar past. Business 40 long ago became a stepchild to Interstate 40, the coast-to-coast highway that opened in 1992, bisecting south Winston-Salem and bypassing the downtown district.

Among the enhancements is a pedestrian bridge being designed by landscape architect Walter Hood, a Charlotte native and N.C. A&T State University graduate who is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The bridge connecting Old Salem with downtown will replace an aging path that Haaf calls “scary and dingy.” It will include 12-foot-wide walkways for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and adjacent planting beds. Other new pedestrian bridges are planned near BB&T Ballpark and over Peters Creek Parkway.

The project will require periodic closings of Business 40 over the three years, DOT officials say. Some residents have criticized the closings as too burdensome, but promoters say the end result will benefit walkers, bikers, drivers and the overall city.

“We were very thoughtful in finding internationally renowned landscape architects who have a desire to elevate the stature of our city,” Haaf says. “It is going to do a lot to say Winston-Salem is an important place.”

Illustration provided by Creative Corridors Coalition

MEBANE – Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries will open its first U.S. plant here, investing $48 million and creating 60 jobs by 2020. The 84-year-old company is best known for its Biscoff cinnamon cookies that are served on commercial airlines.

WINSTON-SALEM – Reynolds American will have a new chief executive officer when Debra Crew replaces CEO Susan Cameron on Jan. 1. Crew is president of subsidiary R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Reynolds American is considering a takeover bid by British American Tobacco, which now owns 42% of the cigarette company.

GREENSBORO – International Textile Group was acquired by Platinum Equity, a Los Angeles-based private-equity firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. ITG is the parent company of Burlington and Cone Denim and employs 4,800 people worldwide.

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