Wake Forest planning to transform Deacon Boulevard area with development
February 12, 2008
Wake Forest University is planning a long-term, multi-phase project intended to bring new restaurants, shops, entertainment-oriented businesses and more to one of the most visible and frequented areas in Winston-Salem.
Wake Forest will work with a developer, as yet unnamed, to transform Deacon Boulevard and some contiguous property into an inviting area featuring a village-like layout and atmosphere. The plan calls for a convenient, multi-use complex, to include office, residential, retail and entertainment space open to the public.
Ultimately, the area off University Parkway that serves as a gateway to downtown Winston-Salem and Wake Forest will offer Wake Forest students, college students from other local schools, people throughout the community, and visitors an attractive, well-designed and convenient complex catering to a wide variety of interests and needs.
The project has received Wake Forest trustee approval.
According to Nancy Suttenfield, Wake Forest’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, the university is investing more than $25 million in the project. Suttenfield said Wake Forest is making the commitment to Deacon Boulevard with the expectation of a significant financial return to serve the university’s educational mission, “just as we expect from all investments.”
At the same time, the university’s administration perceives the project as benefiting the entire community year-round. The redeveloped area will become a destination for nearby college students, as well as many others, including families, similar to developments that have been created near other colleges and universities around the country.
“We have thousands of visitors to Deacon Boulevard on Wake Forest game days and weekends,” Suttenfield explained, “and large crowds visit the area year-round for events at the coliseum, the fairgrounds and other facilities.”
Wake Forest students will enjoy the convenience of a nearby center of activity with much to offer them as a place to gather, socialize and relax in a setting frequented by the entire community, she added. Wake Forest students have told administrators they would like such a destination point nearby to complement student life.
At this early stage, the university is limited in the information it has to announce. Suttenfield said the university will present details about the project in late spring or early summer.
Wake Forest already has academic, administrative and athletic facilities in the area. In addition, the university has 50 acres of land that can be developed and is acquiring 17 additional acres, for a total of 67 acres suitable for development.
“By investing in the acquisition of the property, the university’s intention has been to shape, influence and inspire how a developer transforms the area,” Suttenfield said.
She added that the developer’s capital will be used to construct the new complex.
Wake Forest academic facilities in the area include the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials on Deacon Boulevard, directly across from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and the Clinical Research Center on nearby Shorefair Drive.
Wake Forest athletic facilities along Deacon Boulevard include BB&T Field, Bridger Field House, and the Indoor Tennis Center. Wake Forest is making arrangements to acquire adjacent Ernie Shore Field, home of the Winston-Salem Warthogs, when the new downtown baseball stadium opens.
Some of Wake Forest’s University Advancement staff work in the 519 Deacon Boulevard office building, across from the coliseum.
Carolyn Harbaugh, a Wake Forest senior and a student member of the board of trustees, said she has heard students speak for years about the need for such a development close to the university.
“Students are looking for a nearby place off-campus where they can socialize,” Harbaugh said. “I have heard students express a desire for a convenient off-campus space since I was a freshman and it is exciting that this vision is finally becoming a reality.”
She said that such a development is “critical for student life at Wake Forest and will drastically enhance the social climate of the university.”
Harbaugh likes the idea of a place where Wake Forest students can gather with other area students in one central location.
“I think that Wake Forest students would see the development as an opportunity to socialize with students from the other colleges in town,” Harbaugh said. “There is no single location where students from these institutions can interact regularly. The development of the Deacon Boulevard area will provide an opportunity to increase interaction among these schools.”
“There is definitely a desire among students for a larger number of establishments that would better cater to the student body,” Harbaugh said. “In my mind, a desirable social area for students would include a variety of dining options, bars, entertainment venues and retail shopping.”
Suttenfield pointed out that Deacon Boulevard’s location is significant to the city and to the university. “We look forward to creating a place that brings the entire Winston-Salem community together and leaves visitors with the impression that there is a lot going on at Wake Forest,” she said.