The Royal Inn, which has been shut since June 2015 has been the center of complaints by residents in the West Salem neighborhood over illegal activity.
Now, an upscale storage facility is going to replace the motel with the opening planned for September 2018. This facility at 200 S. Broad St will be a climate-controlled building, containing one central loading dock, several entrances and elevators, locked at night, and well-guarded, according to Jamie Bennett, the new owner of the Royal Inn property.
“We are fully tearing down the existing Inn, as it is very old, and we want to start fresh on this property that holds high potential for success moving forward,” said Bennett.
Current President of the West Salem Neighborhood Association Ron Walter said that he is relieved for the people who live near the Royal Inn.” The people of West Salem will no longer have to worry about the crime happening around their homes,” said Walter. “The future for this property is bright, and a fresh start is just what this property needs.”
Other neighbors agreed.
“This crime ridden motel is an eyesore that needed to be taken care of by the city,” said Brandon Vickers, who lives on Green Street, behind the Royal Inn property. “Spectators at Winston-Salem Dash games will appreciate the improvement to the atmosphere surrounding the ballpark.”
Vickers believes the motel was taking away from the popularity at BB&T Park, just to the north.
The name of the company that bought the property is Fourstore, owned by Jamie Bennett and his father Richard. The Bennett’s have a history of building and operating high-end storage facilities in Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Canada, according to an article by Scott Sexton of the Winston-Salem Journal.
The property will not have 24/7 hour service, but will have flexible hours that allow users access to their storage units, according to Bennett.
“Even though we are not open 24 hours a day, our high-tech cameras will alert us of any suspicious activity happening on or around our property,” said Bennett.
Even when the motel was shut down in 2015, crime activity remained the same around the property, according to the Winston-Salem Police Department.
The lawsuit claimed that from August 2012 to October 2014, 45 incidents involving illegal drugs, 16 assaults, and 18 robberies occurred on the property. Eight instances of prostitution have also been documented on the property, according to the Winston-Salem Police.
Dean Smith, another Green Street resident, believes this new facility will bring a positive change to the area. Smith has two young children, ages 6 and 8, so the removal of the Royal Inn would be a major relief to him as a father.
“We live close enough to the motel that drug users and prostitutes sometimes wandered down by our house,” Smith said. “I was excited to see that a quality business has taken over that lot. The employees and security cameras being will discourage illegal activity in itself.”
In 2015, former president of the West Salem Neighborhood Association Brandon Vickers created a petition to persuade city officials to take steps to have the Royal Inn closed. The West Salem Neighborhood Association represents 1,000 households, with the goal of 500 signatures on the petition that was presented to the City Council.
This petition can be viewed at Change.org, and the number of signees was enough to have officials see this case as a legitimate issue, according to city council member Molly Leight, whose South Ward covers West Salem.
Nuisance abatement for criminal activity on a property is covered by Chapter 19 of the state’s General Statutes. The abatement process is further handled at a local level by City Attorney Angela Carmon’s office.
“The petition received well over the 500 signatures needed to file the petition to the City Attorney’s office,” said Leight.
West Salem neighborhood resident Vernetta Cockerham believes this renovation should be just the beginning of improvements to come to downtown Winston-Salem.
“There should be more community resources other than a storage unit and even if it is one of the more expensive storage buildings,” said Cockerham.