Tuesday, March 29, 2011
According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal today, the Nissen Building - the 18-story, Fourth Street landmark - is at 100% capacity. The building's use was changed from commercial to residential 10 years ago by a company formed to undertake the venture, the Nissen Building LLC. The LLC obtained approval from the City Council last night to refinance their loan, approval which was necessary because the Winston-Salem had loaned the company $3 million. Refinancing was to enable the Nissen Building LLC to begin repaying the city in 2013 rather than the original expected date of 2017. Needless to say, the plan was approved.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
WSSU will break ground on student center
Winston-Salem State University will break ground soon on a new student activities center that will give students more meeting and office space.
The 96,000-square-foot building will relieve some of the congestion at Thompson Student Services Center, which also houses several administrative offices and the main dining hall.
It will cost $25 million and take about 21 months to build.
Money for the new center was approved several years ago and will be taken from the university system's capital projects budget. That money is not related to the money in the UNC system's operating budget, which is facing severe budget cuts, said Nancy Young, a university spokeswoman.
"Those are two different pots of money," she said. "You can't take money from the building fund and put it into operating funds."
The center is one component of a strategic plan to provide students with a "transformative experience" at WSSU, said Aaron Singleton, a university spokesman.
"The Student Activity Center will play a major role in creating a greater sense of community among students, faculty and staff by providing space for activities outside the classroom," he said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Friday on campus, with construction starting shortly after.
"Over time, Thompson just couldn't keep up with all the demands," Singleton said. "There is some meeting space there, but as enrollment grew and students worked on more projects and were involved in more clubs, they needed more meeting space."
Thompson, which has 107,000 square feet, opened in 1996 when enrollment was 2,700 students. Today, there are more than 6,400 students at the university.
"It was designed for the enrollment at the time," Singleton said of Thompson.
The new center will be adjacent to Thompson. It will include some dining space, fitness areas and office space for student government.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
County gives OK to plan for south suburban area
Published: March 15, 2011
Land in one of Forsyth County's fastest-growing areas is now fully covered by a plan to guide development.
The county Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the South Suburban Area Plan on Monday night, avoiding the contention that had marked the plan's adoption by the Winston-Salem City Council in January. Winston-Salem approved the plan on a 5-3 vote after several contentious meetings that pitted residents of the area against one another.
January's controversy centered on future development of an area between the Wal-Mart on Peters Creek Parkway and Clemmonsville Road. Because that area is in Winston-Salem's jurisdiction, it lies outside the area that Forsyth will control through future zoning decisions.
Three people spoke during the county's public hearing Monday night, all in favor of the plan.
"This area plan represents the best interests of the residents of the city and the county," said Carolyn Highsmith, a member of the citizens group that worked on the plan.
The area included in both the city and county portions of the plan has about 33,000 people, according to the 2010 census. The total is an increase of almost 40 percent from the 2000 population of 24,000.
In January's hearing before the Winston-Salem council, landowners along the east side of Peters Creek Parkway near Sides Road argued for more commercial development, while residents of the Kingstree subdivision nearby said they needed protection from too much.
The approved plan calls for the disputed area to be developed with office and other uses that will provide a transition between heavily commercial development and residential.
Paul Norby, director of the City-County Planning Board, said Monday that most of the area in the county's jurisdiction is reserved for low-density development, although some areas are set aside for industry.
He said the entire South Suburban planning area has grown because of available land and the presence of water and sewer services.
"You had access to jobs and a recently widened Peters Creek Parkway," Norby said. "All those things were in its favor."
Friday, March 11, 2011
Forsyth Tech grant will train students on high-end software used by Caterpillar, others
Published: March 11, 2011
Forsyth Technical Community College has been awarded more than $40 million in software that will help students compete for the type of high-end manufacturing jobs that will be available at Caterpillar.
Siemens PLM Software awarded the grant, the largest in-kind grant the school has ever received.
"This will just add to our arsenal of what we can give these kids when they come out of here," said Todd Bishop, the program coordinator of Forsyth Tech's mechanical engineering technology program. "The more exposure we give students, the more well-rounded they are when they leave here."
Bishop described it as "cradle-to-grave" software that covers all aspects of a product's design, from accounting to analysis to quality control.
"This is really powerful software that will open the door for students to apply to companies that pay more,"Bishop said.
The knowledge should come in handy when Caterpillar starts hiring next year. An understanding of the software won't guarantee a job with the company, but it will give students an advantage, he said.
"Will it be a requirement to get a job there? No. But the experience and familiarity with it may help your credentials," Bishop said. "It will help a potential student get a closer look."
The grant is part of a Siemens initiative that provides the software training to students at schools around the world. Bishop's first contact with Siemens came before last summer's announcement that Caterpillar planned to put a new manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem.
"Everything sort of fell into place," he said.
The software probably will be installed at Forsyth Tech this summer and be offered to students in the fall,Bishop said.
Caterpillar officials have acknowledged that Forsyth Tech's ability to customize worker-training played a pivotal role in its decision to build a $426 million manufacturing and assembly plant off Union Cross Road near Glenn High School, where it will make truck axles. At full production capacity, the facility is expected to have a workforce of 392 full-time and 118 contract workers.
Bishop said the plant building may be finished by the end of this year, but production isn't expected to start until 2012 and that Caterpillar would most likely hire the bulk of its workforce that summer.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Published: March 10, 2011
Maryland-Eastern Shore, seeded 10th in this week's MEAC Tournament, put on a gritty display in tripping up Florida A&M in a double-overtime nail-biter.
It's too bad next to no one was there to see it.
Attendance for opening night at the MEAC (men's bracket) on Tuesday evening was generously estimated at 800. With some 15,000 seats in Joel Memorial Coliseum and at least 100 of those players for other teams, it seemed less.
Opening night of a tournament featuring 22 men's and women's teams from six states and the District of Columbia sure didn't feel like the tip-off to the economic windfall. But it's early yet.
Kicking the tires
Wandering around the coliseum on opening night of the MEAC was a little strange. Less than a month ago, news circulated that the city was considering slapping a "for sale" sign on the old barn.
City Manager Lee Garrity, a prudent, close-to-the-vest type, dismissed the talk as mostly an academic exercise. The city routinely explores all its financial options, and discussions about the sales of assets such as the Joel and Bowman Gray Stadium are simply part of that geometry.
Because the city loses some $850,000 a year on the stadiums and spends an additional $1.5 millionannually servicing the debt incurred to build and overhaul them, it at least makes sense to shop them around.
It also makes sense for Wake Forest to kick the tires some, too.
An empire is in the making. A coliseum would be just the thing to cap it off.
"I don't know that the city wants to get rid of the buildings," Garrity said last month. "It's just is this 'new normal,' where our economy is so tough, is there a way to reduce our costs?"
Down the road
Despite a slow opening night, signs that things were picking up appeared yesterday in the form of more out-of-town license plates in hotel parking lots.
Merchants eager for some ka-ching are waiting and hoping to grab their slices of the financial pie. Official estimates set the trickle-down at $3 million annually for hotels, restaurants and the like for this one week.
If the coliseum sells, though, what happens to events such as the MEAC Tournament and monster-truck rallies?
The guess here is that they'd be no more. It's hard enough to imagine the Demon Deacons sharing space with Gravedigger, much less allowing the MEAC to take over the home floor for a week.
"We couldn't say until we know where those conversations were going," Martha Wheelock, an assistant city manager, said Wednesday. "We would honor all existing contracts and (scheduling outside events) would be part of the discussion if there were some sort of transition."