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Winston-Salem Southeast Gateway Plans Announced

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After getting off work at the coffee shop at the N.C. School of the Arts, Dan Harris often rides a bus 10 miles to Wal-Mart on the city's west side. After 10 p.m. is prime shopping time for the students who go the distance so they can restock their refrigerators or buy compact discs and toiletries, all in one trip.

The campus, just south of Old Salem, has automotive shops, a window supplier and several abandoned brick buildings to the east. To the west, along Main Street, there is much of the same.

There are a few convenience stores off campus, but many students have said they don't feel comfortable walking to them. One store is more than a mile away.

"It could definitely use some improvements," said Harris, 19, a rising sophomore studying ballet. "The area we're in is kind of rough, and there is just nothing for us to do here."

The Southeast Gateway, a project 13 years in the making, promises to change that. It would transform the mostly industrial area into a 40-acre village surrounded by historic neighborhoods, the School of the Arts, Winston-Salem State University, and Salem College and Academy.

Plans include a neighborhood market, a Barnes & Noble bookstore that will stock textbooks for the nearby schools, more than 200 condominiums, and more than 100,000 square feet of space for offices, restaurants and other businesses.

A detailed master plan will be presented to the public from 4 to 5 p.m. Monday at the Old Salem Visitors Center.

East Coast Capital Inc., the company developing the project, is discussing its plans with a number of potential clients, including Walgreen's and Moe's Southwestern Grill, a Georgia restaurant chain.

The YWCA has committed to building a new 90,000-square-foot branch off South Main Street that will have several regulation basketball courts and a competition-size swimming pool.

The organization is raising at least $5 million for the building, which is still being designed but could be finished in two years.

Novant Health plans to move some of its offices to the old Duke Power Co. plant on Broad Street, and developers are negotiating with a local private school that is considering an expansion.

Phase One of the project includes a building with 10,000 square feet of retail space and 42 condominums, a 6,000-square-foot retail building, and one of two four-story buildings with 15,000 square feet of retail and 33 condos each. Developers plan to break ground some time next spring and expect that most of the first phase would be finished by the fall of 2005.

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to complete a traffic roundabout at Main Street and Salem Avenue around the same time.

Phase Two would include the new YWCA branch, the Novant offices and the private-school expansion.

Tom Calloway, the chief executive officer at Calloway Johnson Moore & West and a partner in the project, is designing the plans. The drawings represent a mix of traditional and contemporary architecture.

Calloway and Chad Davis, the president of East Coast Capital, also incorporated features from buildings in several cities, including San Francisco and Washington.

"We have created a village that is reflective of and will belong to the neighborhoods and institutions around it," Davis said.

In addition to the commercial and retail buildings, The Gateway, as it is now being called, incorporates jogging trails, athletics fields and recreational areas along Salem Creek. The city will landscape the area with plants, benches and lighting, using grants and money from the sale of Central Park to Salem College.

"This has been a great community exercise," said Doug Lewis, a longtime resident of the Washington Park neighborhood.

He is among the many people in the city who never let go of the Gateway vision.

"The project has certainly benefited from the delay," Lewis said. "We would have had a much smaller, much less diverse project had we moved forward 10 years ago."

The project evolved from conversations in neighborhoods, among city officials and through commitments from the surrounding institutions that wanted to build a community that reflected their diversity.

"There's just lots of potential for us here," said Harold Martin, the chancellor of WSSU.

The project began with the question of how to connect the colleges and neighborhoods through a development that would draw people and fill the empty city parks and unkempt greenways.

"Everything was isolated, there was no interconnectivity, everything had become separated," Lewis said. Residents formed a council of volunteers to work with the city. Land was assembled. Developers converged. But their goals didn't match those of the residents who wanted more for their neighborhood than a strip mall anchored by a big grocery store.

"The landowners decided to stick together to see if something would eventually come together as a whole," Lewis said.

So they waited.

And it did.

East Coast Capital took up the project about six years ago.

Since then, the School of the Arts, WSSU and Salem College have committed to invest in the project through their foundations.

Several of the schools have agreed to offer such incentives as reduced prices for activities and use of school buildings to new businesses and residents that will eventually move into the Gateway.

They are also negotiating a contract through which their textbooks would be sold at a bookstore in the Gateway.

Martin said that he is considering moving to the development from his residence off Peace Haven Road, and he hopes that some students, faculty and staff members at all the colleges will do the same.

"This plan brings forth all of the elements that make a city a desirable place to be," said Paul Norby, the city-county planning director. "I see this as a model development that people will come from all over to see."

Lewis, a pioneer in the Gateway project, said that he is optimistic about its future.

"It's hard to foresee how something significant isn't going to happen," Lewis said. "The time is ripe right now."

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