W-S considering buying lot from Salem College

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The city is considering purchasing the land shown here below the highway off ramp bordered by Liberty, Cemetery, and Main Streets.

W-S considering buying lot from Salem College

The City of Winston-Salem is considering buying a downtown lot near Business 40 from Salem College for $450,850.

The .45 acre vacant lot is just south of Business 40 and is bordered by Liberty, Cemetery and Main streets and an off ramp from the highway that leads to Main and Liberty streets. That Main Street Exit ramp there will be removed when Business 40 renovations are completed, which is expected to happen in late 2020. The right-of-way land where the ramp is located is expected to be conveyed to the city, which could expand that property if the city did purchase it.  The money to buy it would come from 2014 general obligation bonds for economic development sites and infrastructure.

The land for sale was purchased by Salem College for $625,000 in 2012. It’s located across Main Street from the college’s McHugh Sisters Flats, which opened in 2015. This summer, it was reported that Salem College owes about $26 million and was put on probation by an accreditation agency, which said the college is still in good standing but needs to eliminate the debt to be taken off probation. The college is working to raise money to pay the debt without raising tuition.

During the City Council Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 8, the offer to buy the land at the appraised value of $450,850 got mixed reactions. The college put the lot on the open market and informed City Council John Larson of the opportunity. Larson said the land is strategically located between the heart of downtown and places like Old Salem. It’s also near The Strollway that connects those two areas.

City Council Member Jeff MacIntosh and Finance Chairman Robert Clark also saw potential in the land once it’s combined with the adjoining right of way.

“We don’t do this every day, but it’s not every day we get offered this type of arrangement,” said Clark.

City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who is also co-owner of The Chronicle, said he didn’t object to the principle of buying the land, but asked if the city would be buying property in the inner city as well. He said land purchases should be part of a strategy and wanted a short list of properties the city might be interested in.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke questioned the sale and wanted a list of properties the city already owns.

City Council Member D.D. Adams said she couldn’t support the purchase when there were properties in the inner city that could be bought for businesses or affordable housing.

Clark decided to table the item until next month to give staff time to answer the council members’ question.

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