Clock Ticking On Funding For Downtown Revitalization Project
A deadline is quickly approaching about a development project that could breathe new life into downtown Winston-Salem. Developers are anxious to start the Bailey Power Plant project before historic credits expire.
The iconic R.J. Reynolds smokestacks at the Bailey Power Plant are still part of the downtown skyline. Operations have been shuttered for nearly two decades, and now there’s a plan to revitalize the property.
But it won’t happen if the city and county don't approve funding to get the project moving. The construction would have to be complete by the end of 2017, otherwise they will miss out on million of dollars in tax credits.
Eric Tomlinson is with with Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. Tomlinson says that could impact the entire future of downtown’s revitalization.
“If those tax credits weren’t available, it wouldn’t be economically viable and if a deal isn’t done in that short period of time, it’s likely that the building might remain empty, disused for decades,” Tomlinson says.
Will Partin, a project manager with Wexford Science & Technology, says the plan is to turn the former industrial site into a mixed-use facility with office space.
“We have over 3,000 people working and living in and around Innovation Quarter right now,” says Partin. “Providing more amenities in terms of restaurants, hangout spaces and active gathering places is really something we think will help not only the tenants of Innovation Quarter but also the larger community in this area.
The $40-million project will take both private and public funding.
Wexford is asking city council and the county commission to chip in $3-million each to help offset the cost.
Discussions in the city council have been ongoing. But one sticking point has been finding ways to increase diversity in the downtown development.
Assistant City Manager Derwick Paige says they’re talking with Wexford about an entrepreneurial program there for women and minorities.
“What the developers and Wake forest Innovation is proposing is to create a minority business or accelerator to provide shared and low cost space to help minority businesses develop in the research park,” says Paige.
The county doesn’t have as many incentives options as the city. Damon Sanders Pratt, the deputy manger for Forsyth County, says the board is reviewing the financial request from Wexford. He’s not sure what their involvement will be, if any.
“The commissioners have expressed some interest, not necessarily unanimously to participate,” says Pratt. “Now whether that is an economic development project, or as a historic rehab project or an easement somehow, the county’s involvement in how they can participate is still being worked out.”
Pratt says it’s likely the commission will revisit the Bailey Power Plant request by the end of the year. The city’s finance committee is expected to have it on its agenda on December 14 -- and city council could vote on it the following week.
*Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news.