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Old 11-04-2015, 07:16 PM
 
112 posts, read 156,273 times
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Hello,

I really need some help from people who live in Winston Salem. I currently live in Seattle, which for the first 12 years I lived here was truly great. Incredible natural beauty, arts and culture, etc. However, the last 3 years have seen changes bad enough that I don't see how I can stay. I want some honest advice on WS to make sure that the things causing me to leave Seattle won't be in the next place I go.

Crime - The rise of property crime has been terrible. I live in a neighborhood where the average home price is now $500k, yet a few years back the tires were stolen off my car parked right in front of my home! The police don't even respond to calls unless someone is being physically threatened or murdered. They don't come to take a report, they just tell you to contact your insurance company. I have lived in plenty of other big cities and haven't seen this lack of police responsiveness before.

Homelessness/Drug Use - Our Mayor just declared a 'state of emergency' this week as our city is being overrun by homeless encampments, however, the city has brought this on itself by creating the most generous monetary policies which has attracted the chronic homeless from other cities and states (kind of like how refugees in Europe are bypassing place like Denmark to get to Sweden which pays immigrants more). Before anyone gets judge-y, please note that in the Recession I lost 3 jobs due to lay offs and still managed, that is not the situation of the homeless population here. Our homeless here are addicts, not people who have been laid off, etc. I don't want to live somewhere where there are tents on the streets and I have to step carefully to avoid needles as no trespassing and no panhandling laws are not enforced.

Development - The media here leaked a memo that the Mayor wants to do away with single-family home zoning and the City Council has been open about dramatically increasing density. Beautiful character homes are being torn down to put 4 cookie cutter townhouses or condos on the same lot that used to be one home and old growth trees are being removed too. I am not completely against density, I have lived in 6 countries and am ok with density if planned and done well, here it's not, and I don't want to invest in another home again and have war declared on me for living in a house. Just in case people don't know, Seattle is where the real Up House is, made famous by the movie, in fact it's in my neighborhood!

So I want some honest opinions on those 3 factors when it comes to Winston Salem, as I am already broken-hearted and don't want to have to go through this again down the line.

I am looking to live somewhere safe, walkable, with some arts and culture and a good library system. I am not into the bar scene, though I like to go out to restaurants, and I am not a consumerist, so don't care much about shopping either. I also an planning to give up my car and go car-free and live a simpler life (I didn't own a car when I lived overseas for 7+ years so I want to get back to that) and while I am not expecting WS to be like London or New York, I am hoping between a bus, Uber, Zipcar, etc. that such a lifestyle is achievable.

Thank you for any help.
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Old 11-05-2015, 04:54 AM
 
Location: Southport
4,639 posts, read 4,811,900 times
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Why Winston-Salem? I think a lot of cities would give you a better experience than what seem to be having in Seattle, and I think W-S could as well. But there must be other criteria to consider as well that would help make a good choice.
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:16 PM
 
112 posts, read 156,273 times
Reputation: 112
That's a good question that I didn't explain in my message because I was worried it was already too long.

I lived in many different places growing up and know I don't do well in places with extreme weather. Chicago was too much snow and ice, Phoenix was too hot. Winston Salem has four seasons, but none of them are extreme from what I have heard, so while I thought I would never have to deal with snow ever again after moving to Seattle, even your snowfall seems light and not like the Northeast Snowmageddons. Also, geographically, it may not have the water and mountain views here, but WS has its own natural beauty and seems like an attractive place. I thought of Asheville too, but it's more expensive and much smaller...

I love the arts and Winston Salem has a an art school and a number of arts institutions. It's hard to find so much arts and culture in cities under 400,000 but WS seems to have it.
Speaking of size, Winston-Salem seems like it is large enough to have the lifestyle amenities, such as arts, a variety of neighborhoods and attractions, without being too large and sprawling. It also seems to be the right size for meeting a diverse group of people, but small enough to get to know them. Also, a city the size of Winston Salem seems like there would be less hustle bustle, traffic and parking issues, without being too sleepy? I did some Google searches for cities in the 175,000-275,000 range in population and even though the U.S. is a big country, there really aren't many cities of that size surprisingly. I am not a country girl, nor suburban girl as I am not married or raising children, so I want city amenities and therefore am looking at places of a certain size.

Cost - it wasn't like this when I moved there 15 years ago, but Seattle has become the new San Francisco. While it has many great things, I don't think the cost of living there can be justified anymore. This week our city has passed several initiatives with an over $1 billion cost which will be funded by doubling the property taxes starting next year. This is not an exaggeration, but a fact, people who have lived here even longer than me and have paid off their homes are leaving as they can't afford the property tax increases on their fixed income in retirement and I would be in that position someday too. Also, Seattle has several big projects that were already started in the past 4 years that are overbudget and nowhere near completion. Google Big Bertha, our version of Boston's Big Dig. While mis-management of taxpayer funds is the new trend everywhere, it's really bad when those budget are millions or even billions of dollars. I can't see the point of paying for projects that won't even be finished for me to use in my lifetime. North Carolina in general has a moderate cost of living (I ran the cost of living calculators) where everything is less expensive..utilities, groceries and definitely housing! I can sell my house here and buy in cash there and no longer have a mortgage.

Friendly people - While North Carolina is not the deep South, when I have visited the state people seem 'Southern friendly', as my extended family are all from the Midwest where people are naturally friendly and polite, that's important to me. While I have friends here, there have been many online articles written about 'The Seattle Freeze'....I don't know if it's all the people with money to burn here, but there is an attitude here. I have lived in seven states and six countries, so I have a lot to compare with. I have realized that outside of my personal circle, my everyday interactions with people aren't great, I am the type of person who smiles at people and says hello if I pass them on the sidewalk even if I don't personally know them, it doesn't happen here.

Safety - As a single woman homeowner this is important. While Winston Salem is not crime free, the online crime stats seem good compared to other cities of this size, and even some other NC cities?

A city that plans for the future - one of the reasons Seattle is no longer the great place it used to be is when an influx of people started moving here, there wasn't any leadership when it came to planning for the future or growth, hence we have one of the worst traffic rates in the nation (I think we are #4 in stats), dense housing went up without infrastructure to support it or planning for how to integrate it into the existing neighborhoods....no one on our city council was thinking of the future so things just happened willy nilly which has led to a decrease in quality of life, yet costs are higher than ever. I read a city growth plan on a Winston Salem website that was created in 2001 to deal with growth expected by 2015. While not all goals in the report were achieved (which the report was honest enough to say so) at least people back in the 2001 boom years were THINKING about important things and how to preserve quality of life.

So I hope that provides an answer to why Winston Salem. It's one thing to do as much research as I have, but another thing to hear from people on the ground who live there. I have visited NC, but only Asheville, Raleigh-Durham, and Highpoint, so if I am totally off base I would appreciate candor from those who really know Winston Salem. I truly appreciate any honest advice.

Thank you.
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:36 PM
 
Location: Southport
4,639 posts, read 4,811,900 times
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Gotcha, that makes sense. I think W-S would meet most of your needs and wishes. I'm sure some other places would too...Athens, GA comes to mind. If you have some specific questions please post them! There are several posters who live in and around W-S. I lived there from 2000 to 2008 and again in 2013-2014.
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Old 11-06-2015, 01:30 PM
 
Location: NC High Country
3,867 posts, read 6,661,069 times
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Your assessment of W-S is absolutely spot on and almost exactly mirrors the reasons I have always loved W-S so much. I lived there three different times after college and most recently 1998-2008. The only reason we left was because of hubby's job transfer. If we weren't living in the NC High Country (Avery County), W-S would be my next choice. I still have friends and in-laws there.

P.S. In the short term, the main library branch in downtown is under construction (being totally rebuilt), but ultimately will be a fine asset once again. The county library system is a good one, with the other branches picking up some of the slack while the main branch is out of commission.
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Old 11-06-2015, 04:13 PM
 
112 posts, read 156,273 times
Reputation: 112
Thanks carolinadawg for confirming that Winston Salem would be a pretty good fit. I did think about Athens a little when I started out with a big list of places, but thought the climate might be too warm, but I will take a second look as I don't know Athens. I did used to go to Atlanta every 3 months on business trips for years and while Atlanta is too big and sprawly, etc. Athens is smaller and as a uni town it has the education and culture aspect.

Thanks roadpony on the info on the library system as I really value a good library system. I have a book blog...

Another question I have is some other forums have had posts about Winston Salem being a little cliqueish? That if you weren't born or raised in the area, it could be hard to integrate into social circles? As you both have lived other places, how would you respond to that? I don't need a huge social circle as I am the type of person who values a few close friends over lots of acquaintances, but I hope it won't be too hard to meet some great people...I am pretty outgoing and see that WS has a bunch of meetup groups and I belong to several in Seattle too, but if there are other organizations to know about to meet new people please let me know.

I am an environmentalist, I did a green remodel of my current home, have a rain garden and honeybees, compost, etc. so maybe there are some organizations I should know about? How 'green' would you consider the city? I was surprised by a friend who told me his parents live somewhere in in the Southeast and their town didn't even recycle paper.

Also, I hope to be able to take my job with me and telecommute, but if not, how is the job market/economy there? I heard there is some new incubator for startups downtown? I currently work in the tech industry, but am a former educator so was thinking the different universities could be a possibility as I would love to work for a study abroad department or if not work there, maybe at least volunteer.

Since I hope to eventually be car free, what are the local buses like? In some cities public transportation can be a little sketchy, in others all kinds of people use public transport, what is WS like? I think I read that there are free electric buses in the downtown core which sounds good. What is it like to get from neighborhoods to downtown on the bus? Do routes go to most areas or is it limited to only certain neighborhoods?

Anyway, thank you for taking time to help a stranger
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Old 11-06-2015, 06:50 PM
 
Location: Southport
4,639 posts, read 4,811,900 times
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W-S is cliqueish among the real old line families (Reynolds, Hanes, etc.) but I think that exists everywhere. There are lots of newcomers in W-S and its very open to new people, imo.

The local economy is pretty good, but in NC Charlotte and Raleigh are head and shoulders above all other cities. W-S has 2 fairly large universities, plus Salem College. It also has a decent base of businesses, including RJ Reynolds, Hanes Brands and BB&T.

The local bus system is very basic. I can't imagine relying on it as my primary source of transportation. I don't *think* the free downtown bus still runs, but I may be wrong. Buses run all over the city, but not all that frequently, or at all hours. More info here:

WSTA Official Website | Winston-Salem Transit Authority

You'll have to choose your location carefully to live without a car.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:09 PM
 
Location: Chapelboro
10,688 posts, read 11,310,925 times
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I think W-S might work for you.

If the bus thing is a real priority for you might give Chapel Hill some consideration. Chapel Hill has a free bus system that goes all over town and it's pretty doable to be car free. Lots of arts and culture, but higher housing costs than W-S (probably much lower than Seattle). Chapel Hill is part of the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) which has seen the same kind of explosive growth as Seattle, but Chapel Hill has slow growth policies so it hasn't exploded like Raleigh. Winston-Salem and the rest of the Triad has been growing, too, but not quite as explosively as the Triangle and Charlotte.
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Old 11-08-2015, 01:25 PM
 
112 posts, read 156,273 times
Reputation: 112
Thanks poppydog, I do have some home searches set on Chapel Hill too, but was worried about the fact that there is more growth in the Triangle. It's good to know that Chapel Hill has slow growth policies, so will take a closer look.
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