Plans for Workforce Housing and Healthy Food Downtown
Until recently, there was little to no housing in downtown Winston-Salem. In early 2016, Goler Community Development Cooperation plans to not only add an apartment building, but make those apartments affordable.
The nonprofit is in the process of gaining gap funds from the city to both build workforce housing and begin a project to provide fresh food to areas without convenient grocery stores around Winston-Salem.
In 2014 Goler CDC bought 1.73 acres between Seventh Street and Martin Luther King Drive from the city for $525,000. The project, which will be called 757 North, will house 115 rental apartments available to people who earn a range of incomes, said Goler CDC President Michael Suggs.
According to Suggs, the apartment building will have a mixture of market force and workforce housing. Twenty-nine of the one to two-bedroom units are required to be affordable to residents who make eighty percent of the average median income (AMI) of Winston-Salem, or $40,869. Construction on 757 North will begin in early spring 2016 pending the full city council’s decision in December to provide 1.25 million of the approximately $15 million dollar. The building will is being developed in collaboration with Charlotte-based Laurel Street Residential.
Assistant City Manager, Derwick Paige, said, “To bring in the additional population to the city is critical especially as you’re growing a city with a diverse economy, a diverse population. We want to attract those 18 to 34 year olds downtown and have that vibrancy to grow and create sustainability of life downtown.”
Goler CDC has been planning development on this lot as part of a larger effort to revitalize the historic Goler Heights area since the early 2000s. This project comes as a response to community feedback.
“Our organization has been working to develop this community since 2002,” said Suggs, “Basically we did a series of focus groups where we asked people in the community what they wanted in the community. They wanted places to live along with some commercial development.”
757 North will be in an adjacent lot to another Goler CDC project, Mudpies East Child Development Center, a technologically advanced five star facility that serves nearly four hundred children. According to the Chief Executive Officer of Mudpies, Dr. Tony Burton III, development will be beneficial to both their nonprofit organization as well the continued growth of downtown. With many of their students’ parents working in the Innovation Quarter, the apartment’s proximity will give a convenient place to live for young families working and learning in the area.
“We built here because of the innovation quarter,” said Burton, “We built this modern childcare facility because we knew what was coming, we knew there would be development and new apartments which means more people and growth.”
757 North joins Goler CDC’s other development projects, like Goler Manor and the Gallery Lofts, as well as other projects downtown including the redevelopment of the Pepper Building and the Forsyth County Courthouse.
“Our concept has always been to create a multicultural, mixed income community so this will just go a long way to making that happen,” said Suggs, “We want it to be multigenerational, the Manor addresses the seniors, you have Mudpies that addresses the children, the gallery lofts and this project addressing the millenials, and to some extent the empty nesters who want to come and experience downtown.”
In the next year, Goler CDC also plans to institute a hydroponics project to produce, sell, and deliver fresh foods to areas, like Goler Heights, with limited access to the fresh food that is typically provided by grocery stores. In collaboration with Help Our People Eat (HOPE) and with financial backing from the city, the hydroponics program would provide jobs as well as healthy food. A proposal for $295,000 to buy a lot at 450 Polo Road, from which food will be grown and distributed, will go through the city council in December.
“Winston-Salem has one of the highest concentrations of what they call food deserts,” explained Suggs, “These are areas where people don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are normally provided by grocery stores. Because grocery store construction is based on income level, poor parts of town don’t have grocery stores. This will help address the issue of access.”
Access both to workforce housing and locally sourced, healthy food are part of greater initiatives to revitalize downtown.
“We want to create a downtown that is everyone’s downtown,” said Paige.