You’ve heard it said a million times. “Don’t miss this. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”
It’s rarely true. but in this case, it is. and I hope you will hear me out because your understanding of the Creative Corridors Coalition project and your participation over the next few years can dramatically improve the way Winston-Salem looks, how it is perceived by others and how we all interact with each other.
With the Creative Corridors Coalition, residents of Winston-Salem got ahead of the curve. When talk started a few years back about replacing the 11 bridges on Business 40 here, the leadership of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County and the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership saw an opportunity to influence that process. They reasoned that we could have not only new, safe bridges but also artful bridges that would be visually pleasing and stimulating to future generations of Winston-Salem residents and reflect our sobriquet (or “identity as”) the City of Arts and Innovation. Importantly, they also thought that instead of dividing our communities (as has happened in the past), these new projects could connect and unify them.
It was the chance of a lifetime, you might say, to make a lasting, positive impact on how Winston-Salem would look and interact for at least generations to come, and as people talked, the vision grew. Eventually it included not only the bridges on Business 40 but major roads and thoroughfares in downtown Winston-Salem. Officials of the N.C. Department of Transportation expressed their willingness to cooperate. the secretaries of Commerce and Cultural Resources gave it their stamp of approval, allowing that a signature project of this kind would have a positive impact on business development and job creation.
The diverse group of community leaders grew larger and larger, and finally a freestanding 501(c) organization, Creative Corridors Coalition, was formed to carry the project forward. I was asked to chair it, and I accepted enthusiastically, believing this is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime chance for all of us to work together to set our community apart.
A year ago, the coalition received an enabling grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop a visionary master plan and design guidelines for roadway and infrastructure projects in downtown Winston-Salem; additionally, many local groups and individuals here in Winston-Salem lent their financial support. the coalition used a portion of these grants to employ the talented professionals at Design Workshop, a design firm headquartered in Denver that has offices in Asheville. during this last year, residents of the city have participated in more than 50 public meetings and provided Design Workshop professionals with valuable insights into how we would like our city to look. Volunteers have staffed information tables at public events such as the Dixie Classic fair, Dash baseball games, the Fiesta festival and Rock the Block. more than 3,000 people have joined the coalition and are receiving regular updates and being invited to provide further input. We are beginning to understand the long-term positive impact that the coalition can have on quality of life in Winston-Salem and the city’s image and reputation as the City of Arts and Innovation.
I am delighted to report that the eyes of the nation are upon us. the extraordinary coalition we have created in Winston-Salem and our successful working relationship with local and state officials are being held up as a model when public officials, infrastructure design professionals, economic development experts and arts devotees gather around the nation.
Design Workshop has done amazing work, and now the coalition will share its final report with the community on Thursday. Hundreds will gather at BB&T Ballpark at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate the completion of the master plan and design guidelines. We believe that the excitement generated by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity merits a community celebration, open to all and at no charge.
We will be talking about how our master plan and design guidelines will be a huge gain for our city, in that it will be a green, artful, iconic network that embodies all of the principles that we have developed during this past year’s design process.
The next step will be to present this extraordinary document to city and county elected officials, the planning board, the Appearance Commission, members of our legislative delegation and staff and board of the N.C. Department of Transportation. We will seek their approval and active support as we move, step by step, toward implementation of historic infrastructure projects in Winston-Salem. I am asking you to make that journey with us.
Lee French, the president of old Salem and chair of the coalition’s communication committee, made a great point when he said in a public meeting, “This is a rare and monumental opportunity to influence a major public-works project that not only impacts the near term but has lasting implications for several generations to come, … and our goal has been to create a process built around the notion of engaging the entire community of stakeholders — public and private — in the answer.”
The Creative Corridors Coalition is providing that process. please come and celebrate what our community has accomplished thus far at BB&T Ballpark on Thursday. but keep in mind that this event is just one milestone. Winston-Salem needs your involvement and your commitment for the long haul, so please also join the coalition at: