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Big thinkers wanted for Pepper Building area

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Big thinkers wanted for Pepper Building area

Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership hopes developers can finally get a revitalization plan off the ground

By Michael Hewlett


Monday, January 24, 2005


(Graphic by Nicholas Weir)

Over the past few years, plans for downtown revitalization have moved forward. New restaurants have opened, and the Nissen Building is being transformed into apartments.

But on the south side of Fourth Street, the Pepper Building still stands vacant, a number of plans for it having fallen through in the past several years. Across from that building is the Old Courthouse, which has been vacant for more than a year since several county departments moved into the new Forsyth County Government Center.

After another recent attempt to redevelop the Pepper Building failed, officials at the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership began to think big, and they are inviting developers to think big with them.

Redeveloping that section of downtown is a critical part of revitalization, said Lyons Gray, the president of the partnership.

"It's a signature of the core of our downtown," he said.

The partnership is preparing a statement of interest to send to developers in the next month. The partnership said it hopes to get ideas from developers on what to do with about 3 acres bounded by Main Street to the east, Fourth Street to the north, the downtown strollway to the west and Third Street to the south.

The area includes a parking lot owned by Piedmont Federal Savings & Loan Union that is behind the Pepper Building at the corner of Liberty and Third streets.

The idea came about after the collapse of plans by Trilogy Group LLC, which had planned to buy the Pepper Building and convert it for residential and commercial uses.

Before Trilogy came along, John Elkington, a Memphis businessman, was going to redevelop the building and anchor it with a 10,000-square-foot NASCAR Caf?. But those plans were abandoned.

Gray said that there are more questions than answers about how to develop all of the properties. "We may learn things we didn't know about," he said. "It's a very fluid process."

Last year, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with the partnership to study how to reuse the Old Courthouse.

On the latest idea, the partnership is working with Bob Brown, who Gray said helped draft the request for proposals for One Technology Place at the Piedmont Triad Research Park.

The Pepper Building is owned by the Downtown Winston-Salem Foundation, which is part of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.

There also have been discussions with Piedmont Federal about the project, Gray said.

The partnership is involved with other efforts downtown. In 2003, the partnership revealed plans for a civic plaza that would include a public garden and a performance space among sidewalk cafes and other new businesses in an area bounded by Second, Fourth, Liberty and Cherry streets.

Those plans are slowly moving forward, but a major challenge is money, as the cost could be more than $25 million, Gray said.

Aspects of the civic plaza could be incorporated in this new plan, he said.

The new project would dovetail with plans by the city to tear down a building at 124-126 W. Fourth Street, and another small building behind it facing Third Street to make way for a parking lot. That lot would serve customers of shops and restaurants on Fourth Street.

Gray said that combined with the Nissen Building and the makeover of the Adam's Mark Winston Plaza Hotel into new Marriott and Embassy Suites hotels, "you're creating a real core of downtown, so it's an important project."

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I took the time to create a realistic proposal for the "3 acres" site that I think could get financing to break ground and be fully leased. This is the most conservative of the two proposals I've dreamed-up for this site. I used 3D modeling software and other tools to create this. I created a quick 3D massing model of the buildings to the North, East and South of the site and added the proposed structures.

These are NOT actual architect renderings for this site.




/\ I included an area on the West side for parking spaces along the strollway. The small tower and wall will hide the cars from 4th Street. When the park and underground deck are built, the parking spaces will convert to green space and the wall with tower will create a grand entrance.

The West Facade will face Civic Plaza. I want verticality, but I also used some horizontal lines to help soften the transition of the Fourth and Main blocks into Civic Plaza. Each side of the tower is treated differently, as you will see.


/\ "W" as in Winston-Salem. These vertical bay windows will have solid glass along the sides and pre-cast concrete on the front. They are designed after the bays on the Phoenix Hotel that occupied this block in the late 1800's. They will increase the strong vertical feel of the project on street-level, giving this building a powerful presence on Fourth, while the horizontal band will make the retail spaces along Fourth appear longer in length. This will give 4th Street a dynamic entrance to the Main Street intersection.


The "tower" is at the corner of Third and Liberty to protect views of the ReynoldsAmerican Tower and to prevent "crowding-in" of the city's historic properties. It is designed after the ReynoldsAmerican Tower and will incorporate the design of the Pepper Building. The upper 6-7 floors of the tower will be office condos. The lower 7 floors will be residential condos and one floor will be "large plate" restaurant space. The crown is 50 feet. I know someone will ask. :D The tower is 250 feet.


Yes, that is a city park! A park surrounded by skyscrapers, with a large fountain and a wall of retail to the West at the new 15-storey tower and the older 10 and 6 storey existing Pepper and O'Hanlons buildings. The 8 W. Third also has street front retail. One West Fourth has retail that is accessible from inside. I wanted the park to have a large fountain at the major intersection of Fourth and Main and I also wanted an open space big enough for large gatherings, picnics, walking the dog or big enough to toss a football around with friends. Another idea is a skate park.


The Pepper Building and its design would be incorporated into the new Tower, but it will be modern in design, with lots of floor to ceiling windows. The newer structures will have to be flush with the facade of the Pepper. The Pepper will be restored to condos. Total condos would equal around 100 units. Office space would be around 100,000 square feet. The basement would become underground parking. All of the first floor would be retail. The parking entrance could be on 3rd or 4th, depending on city plans for Civic Plaza.


Skyline view from Broad Street near the East-West Expressway exit. I know a 250 foot tower will disappear to the South, East and North, but it's a more realistic proposal that could actually get built, based on demand. The tower would be visible from the East-West Expressway/West View and Forest Park/Southeast View. I also think the top of the pyramid will be visible from University Parkway/North View.

* I'm also working on ideas for a 530-560 foot high-rise at the courthouse site as a second proposal. The ideas I'm working on are designed to look like Legos and would preserve views of the ReynoldsAmerican Tower. I may include a skate park beside the Pepper, taking advantage of its gritty urban feel and the canyon of high-rises for a cool setting. A smaller 8-10 storey condo tower would fill in the West side of the Property.

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The Trilogy Group's plan was well organized and a nice fit for market demand, but sadly they weren't in the club. It was funny to watch folks follow Elikington around as if he was a Saint. But, hey! At least we'll have the Nissen Bldg coming online! Anybody know what type of square footage the individual dwellings of the Nissen Bldg will be? Whats the ceiling height?

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Anybody know what type of square footage the individual dwellings of the Nissen Bldg will be?  Whats the ceiling height?


This info is from http://www.magnoliapartners.com/Nissen.htm:


14,000 rsf retail/commercial and 126,791 sf residential area

Floors: Eighteen

Structure: Completed in 1927. Concrete and steel frame. Masonry, limestone and pre-cast concrete exterior.

Residential: 145 apartment units. 1 or 2 bedroom units available, ranging from 645 sf to 1,420 sf

Amenities: Roof top pool and terrace, fitness center on lower level. Apartments designed with granite countertops in kitchen and bathrooms, and ceramic tile floors in kitchen. Hardwood floors in selected units.

Retail Component: 10,951 rsf of retail space available on the ground floor, remaining space on lower level.

Completion Date: September 2005 (scheduled)

Owners: Nissen Manager, LLC &

Banc of America Historic Capital Assets, LLC


Nissen Risk Capital, LLC & HRI Properties

Architects: Little Diversified Architectural Consulting - Design Architect

Acanthus Architecture Group

- Supervisory Architect

General Contractor:

Holder Construction Company

Construction Manager:

Magnolia Construction, LLC

Marketing & Leasing: The Baldwin Companies - retail/commercial

HRI Management Corp. - residential

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