The Arts Based School has been successfully operating in Downtown Winston for two decades, just behind Lloyd Presbyrtian, in what used to be the old Depot Street neighborhood. This year, they began operating a second school at the former Diggs Elementary in the historic Happy Hill neighborhood. Recently they requested that the City Council give them nine acres of property adjacent to the former Diggs property to expand their new charter school at Happy Hill.
The Arts Based School’s plans have angered local activists who don’t want to see Happy Hill, Winston-Salem’s most historic African American neighborhood, further carved up. Activists forced the Council to reconsider donating property set aside for affordable housing to the Arts Based School until next month. And they have also ignited a long overdue debate on the future of Happy Hill.
There are many empty lots in Happy Hill. At a recent Finance Committee meeting, a City official who was just off camera told Councilmember Robert Clark that 95 single-family lots in Happy Hill were ready to be developed. Happy Hill has been half-empty since the City and Housing Authority used a 2003 HOPE VI grant to redevelop Happy Hill Gardens (NC’s first public housing development). HAWS replaced Happy Hill Gardens with three apartment complexes (Providence Place, Adlers Point, and Willows Peak). But 20 years after Happy Hill Gardens was razed, few of the single-family homes HAWS planned have been built.
This inaction by the Housing Authority and the City Council is unacceptable, especially given Winston’s affordable housing shortage and high eviction rates. While around 100 lots in Happy Hill have sat idle, the Gateway development project between Old Salem and Happy Hill has moved forward with the City’s support. Numerous downtown projects have been completed over the last 20 years with the City’s support (Fourth Street, Trade Street improvements, Nissen Building redevelopment, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, and Truist Ballpark, to name a few).
But historic Happy Hill, long the victim of violent government action (Happy Hill Garden’s construction in the 1950s and Highway 52’s construction in the 1960s), has been neglected for the last 20 years.
HAWS seeks to build 10 homes in Happy Hill to fulfill its obligation under the 2003 HOPE VI grant it obtained from HUD. That would leave HAWS and the City more latitude to develop the rest of Happy Hill as they chose.
We had an extremely positive call with HUD regarding Happy Hill. HUD asked for a development proposal to construct the 10 units. We are in the process of
determining a way to obtain the funds to build out the 10 units. One option on the table is to sell some of the vacant lots to a developer and use the proceeds to
construct the units. This is a positive as we will be gaining single-family
-6/07/2022 Summary Minutes, HAWS Development Package
It’s time that the City of Winston-Salem, HAWS (and perhaps the Arts Based School) sat down with Happy Hill’s residents and concerned citizens throughout the city to determine the best use of the numerous vacant lots controlled by HAWS and the City. According to HAWS’s documents, HAWS has been discussing Happy Hill’s future with the City for some time now. It’s time for residents and activists connected to historic Happy Hill to get a seat at the table. Equitable development and preserving Happy Hill’s African American history must be the highest priority of local stakeholders.
Arts Based School Happy Hill Expansion Files
Fy 2002 HOPE VI REV Grant Awards.PDF