Economy
2:51 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Development Means More Commercial Growth For Former Mill Neighborhood

James Mabe, who has lived in the Hanestown Community for most of his life, stands in the doorway to his home on Ricks Drive in Winston-Salem.
James Mabe, who has lived in the Hanestown Community for most of his life, stands in the doorway to his home on Ricks Drive in Winston-Salem.
Credit WFDD Photo by Paul Garber

James Mabe has lived in the same small, one-story home on Ricks Drive since he was a grade-school boy in the 1940s. Back then the village he grew up in off Stratford Road had unpaved streets, outside bathrooms and a company store run by the Hanes Company. Hanes built the homes in the early 20th Century for employees of its spinning mill next door. Now the community called Hanestown is a neighborhood in flux.

The mill has been vacant since 2007, when it was shuttered by Hanesbrands. There are plans now to raze the former mill and put a large mixed-use development in its place. The neighborhood surrounding the mill has already been moving from residential to commercial, with many of the old workers homes’ becoming spas, salons and other small businesses. Mabe says he welcomes the change, but he’ll miss the old mill when it’s torn down.

“I’m sentimental about it because everyone I know – they’re dead now, most of them – but they worked in that mill,” Mabe said.

When Mabe was a boy, Hanestown was a self-contained village, with its own post office and train station. For years it operated independently, before being annexed by the city as Winston-Salem grew up around it.

In its prime, most folks in the neighborhood had a connection to the mill, including Mabe’s father, who was a mechanic there. Mabe also worked there part time. But he’s feeling less and less connected to the neighborhood these days.

“I used to sit in school and I could tell you who lived where and everything, their names and everything,” he said. “I can’t no more. I don’t even know who my neighbors anymore.”

Across the street from Mabe, Jerry Tilley is working on the front porch of the house he’s putting on the market. Tilley and his wife moved to the neighborhood when he retired and they decided to downsize. But he figures, with development coming, the time to sell is now. He thinks the commercialization of the neighborhood will continue as the development moves closer.

“I think you’ll see that trend continue because of the age of the neighborhood and the age of the residents,” Tilley said. “This is an older, older neighborhood, and the people that are here have been here for 40 and 50 years, for the most part. As those folks die out, I see businesses come in to take their place because it’s so convenient to Stratford Road.

The mill site is being developed by Dobson-based Crown Companies. City planners say that when completed, the mixed-use development will be comparable in size to Thruway Shopping Center a few blocks to its north.