Why does the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem own a $3.5 million commercial building on Fourth Street that houses no one? This is a question that I have delved into in a previous post. But I’m back at it again. And this time, I have more documents on the subject to share.
“In July 2005 HAWS relocated its corporate office to the historical Loewy Building located at 500 W. 4th Street. This move to the heart of downtown compliments the community supportive/social services that are present in the downtown area, which provides greater accessibility and convenience to the clients we serve.
Forsyth Economic Ventures, Incorporated (FEV) was founded in 1993 as a non-profit entity under the umbrella of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS). The primary purpose of the organization is to assist HAWS as it enables persons of low and moderate income in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to live in safe, decent and affordable housing.
Members of the HAWS Board of Commissioners serve dual roles as members of the FEV Board of Directors. They provide oversight of fiduciary matters under the governance of HAWS rules and regulations as well as the Internal Revenue Codes under Section 501(c) 3 and Section 170(c)2.
In recent years, FEV has expanded to offer commercial real estate opportunities as well. The historic Loewy Building is owned by FEV and operated by HAWS personnel. The building houses the administrative office of HAWS and is conveniently located in the downtown Winston-Salem area. Businesses and service providers within the building add a unique influence on the local economy (from law offices to retail clothing boutiques). Both retail and office space are available for lease.
FEV is just one of the aspects in which the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is “so much more.”
There you have it, from the horse’s mouth. HAWS purchased the Loewy Building under its subsidiary, Forsyth Economic Ventures, back in 2004 and moved its headquarters from 901 N. Cleveland Avenue to 500 West Fourth Street in 2005. HAWS reports from 2005 indicate that the Housing Authority was happy to participate in Mayor Allen Joines’ downtown redevelopment efforts while diversifying their portfolio.
“Many of you may have never been to, or even seen, the
current HAWS headquarters on Cleveland Avenue, but that is about to change. The agency has purchased the historic downtown Loewy building, the former Thalheimer’s department store, has already moved one major division there, and will finish consolidating all of its employees from the current Cleveland Avenue and Lowery Street facilities into the renovated building this spring. HAWS is also actively managing the building, renting space to tenants that include the Winston-Salem State University Center for Community Safety and the community outreach division of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. Just think of the positive economic impact that the move of our employees downtown – to a building that has been largely empty for a
number of years — will have on the burgeoning restaurant and arts scene!
The Loewy Building is perhaps the most visible example – and perhaps the only example many of you see — of HAWS’ transition away from heavy reliance on government funding to an increasingly privatized, financially self-sufficient model.
-James A. Rousseau, Interim Chairman,
Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. -HAWS 2004 Annual Report
Despite the fact that HAWS’ possession of the Loewy Building did nothing to house low-income residents, it was championed as a significant step forward for HAWS by Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President Allen Joines. (It’s only been in recent years that Allen Joines and the City of Winston-Salem have admitted that affordable housing in Winston-Salem needs to be a top priority) Internal documents show that HAWS believed buying the Loewy Building in 2004 was an out-of-the-box move by a housing authority in transition. But that is not how HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) interpreted HAWS’ move to Fourth Street.
HUD called out HAWS. HAWS robbed Peter (subsidized housing funds) to pay Paul (Forsyth Economic Ventures). HAWS commingled funds and transferred funds that should have been spent on subsidized housing units to their private venture subsidiary (FEV). Forsyth Economic Ventures purchased its crown jewel, the Loewy Building at 500 West Fourth Street. (Forsyth Economic Ventures is nothing but HAWS called by another name. At HAWS board meetings, the board conducts business as the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem. Then the same board makes a motion and conducts business as Forsyth Economic Ventures. Forsyth Economic Ventures is HAWS.)2006-2007 HUD audit
HUD called out HAWS for its shenanigans. HUD pushed the executive director of HAWS to resign. Later, HAWS’ former Executive Director and the Housing Authority’s Chairman of the Board were indicted on a separate shady land deal.
HUD got HAWS to implement tighter internal budgetary controls. Its board was enlarged, and the City of Winston-Salem has been staffing HAWS’ board with more bankers and real estate brokers with experience looking at financial documents. But HUD stopped short of making HAWS sell the Loewy Building.
With a value of well over $3 million, it’s high time that HAWS sold the Loewy Building. Especially in light of Grubb Properties’ current construction of 244 luxury apartments between the former GMAC Building and the Loewy Building. It’s time for the Loewy Building to be bought by an owner that can adequately restore the Loewy.
Selling the Loewy would allow HAWS to finish the HOPE VI project at Happy Hill that it started 20 years ago. It would also help HAWS to restore Crystal Towers without privatizing it and displacing 201 vulnerable residents from the heart of the city.
In the age of Zoom meetings and working-from-home, HAWS should be able to move back into its old Headquarters at 901 N. Cleveland Avenue. Also, as Cleveland Avenue is “transformed” by a monumental Choice Neighborhood grant that HAWS is currently managing, shouldn’t HAWS be located back on Cleveland Avenue?