Second chance for historic building
The City of Winston-Salem Engineering Field Office and Winston-Salem Police Department’s Community Resources Unit now call the historic Winston Mutual Building home. City leaders held a dedication and open house for the new offices last Friday.
The four story building at 1225 E. Fifth St. was built in 1969 to serve as the headquarters of Winston Mutual Life Insurance Co., which was founded in 1906 to provided insurance and home mortgage products to the African American community.
“For years the Winston Mutual Building has stood as a sign of hope and prosperity for this community,” City Council Member James Taylor, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said at the dedication.
In the 1980s, Winston Mutual was sold to Golden State Life. The building fell into disrepair when the California-based company fell on financial hard times. In 2010, Golden State was forced to liquify its assets. Fifth Street Investments LLC bought the building in 2012 and renovated it. The city, currently the building’s sole tenant, now leases part of the second and all of the third and fourth floors. City workers began working out of the building in the spring.
Over the years, the building has had many short-term tenants. City Council member Derwin Montgomery based his 2013 re-election campaign there. The building sits in Montgomery’s East Ward. He has always been an advocate of its renovation and use. He was a proponent of the plan to base city offices there.
“We’re able to preserve this structure with its rich entrepreneurship history to the African American community,” said Montgomery. “…This serves as economic development in this community. I think it shows it’s (not) the tip of the iceberg on what’s to come, as we see more development moving east from downtown to this part of downtown. I think this is just a glimpse of what is to come.”
The Field Engineering Office was previously housed in a building on Rams Drive that was demolished to make way for the Salem Creek Connector. The Office – based on the third floor – is made up of surveyors who create plans for engineering projects. Construction inspectors, who go out and inspect surveyors’ plans, are on Winston Mutual’s fourth floor. There are 16 Field Engineering employees based at the building.
Field Engineering Manager David Doss said the space works, though his employees don’t see it that much. Doss said most Field Engineering employees come to the office in the morning to compare notes and answer phone calls before going out to conduct surveying work in communities throughout the city. They return to the building at the end of the day, but generally spend about seven hours in the field.
“If you see people in here, they’re not doing their job, because they’re supposed to be out in the field working,” Doss said.
The Police Department’s Community Resources Unit, formerly called the Crime Prevention Unit, is on the second floor. Its relocation is part of a plan to de-centralize police personal from the Department’s Cherry Street headquarters into spaces throughout the city.
The Community Resources Unit organizes neighborhood and community watch groups, oversees business and residential security inspections and conducts crime prevention education, including appearances by McGruff, the iconic trench coat-wearing “dog” known for his “Take a Bite Out of Crime!” catch phrase.
The unit also conducts the Citizens’ Police Academy, a free series of informative seminars to allow residents to familiarize themselves with the the department and police procedures. A week-long Youth Police Academy for high schoolers was recently held. The child safety seat instruction and installation program run by the unit – which are done by appointment only – is now held in the Winston Mutual parking lot.
The unit has five officers who are led by supervisor Sgt. Mark Snow, who said the building provides the unit with more space than it had at the congested Public Safety Center. Part of the unit’s old space is already being used by Forensics Services.
Police Chief Barry Rountree, who was on hand for the dedication, said he’s pleased with the unit’s new accommodations.
“It helps put us out in the community and helps free up space at the headquarters,” said Rountree. “I think it’s going to be a positive thing for the community and the police department.”
The Community Resources Unit’s move could be the first of several as satellite police facilities around the city are planned under a proposed bond referendum.
To contact the crime prevention unit, call 336-773-7835 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.