“You have to meet this gal,” he says.
“What she’s doing and what you’re doing are so complementary. You need to know each other.”
When we began this blog I wanted to start with a few inspiring folks and then ask them in return to recommend a few others that they find inspiring or consider up-and-coming in the Winston-Salem area. Our hope was that this referral cycle would continue on and on allowing us to organically weave through our creative community, story by story. I firmly believe that the only way to really showcase our little-city-that-could is through its passionate people.
So there I was getting ready to meet the first “referral”. If you’re into labels I guess you could call her an “up-and-comer”. But I have to tell you that after about ten minutes getting her initial scoop I’d say she straddles the line and is certainly inspiring to me.
Lindsey Yarborough may not be an original Winston-Salem Townie, but she and the folks over at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter are certinaly making their stamp on this town and it is sure to last for many vibrant years to come. She came to us by way of Austin, Texas about a decade ago. After graduating from The College of Charleston she moved back to her hometown looking to start her career. It was clear early on that she was ready “for a change” and as luck would have it, a friend recommended a position here in town with a technology firm, she landed the gig and northward to the Camel City she came.
“It was hard at first adjusting and trying to make new friends,” she shares. But with time she started to call Winston-Salem home. And then one fateful night at Ziggy’s she met the guy that she would ultimately call her “Mr”. She rolls her eyes a little as she shares this story, “yes at a bar” she says; I tell her that falling in love by way of Ziggys officially makes her a Townie. We laugh.
Both transplants, she and her husband Ben now feel so connected to the city and excited about its future that they are ready to make this their long-term home and put down roots.
About four years ago Lindsey had the opportunity to interview for a new position with a visible new development project. “They were looking for someone with sass, not afraid to speak their mind. I actually had to tone it down so I’m pretty sure I fit the bill.” I believe her. She’s a straightshooter who can throw out an elevator pitch just as fast as she can sling a witty one-liner. That’s why I like her.
Accepting this new role as Senior Manager, Community Relations, Lindsey, the self-proclaimed “lover of structure”, was in uncharted territory. Her job description was loose, her position was brand-new. She had to stay flexible day-to-day and find her way. “It’s been really liberating to make this position my own.” Today she is responsible for the “strategic implementation of community programs at Bailey Park that effect the greater community.” Not bad.
But before there was programming there had to be a park, and before a park there had to be plans for the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. If you haven’t driven over to the east side of downtown where Patterson Avenue meets 4th and 5th streets lately, might I gently nudge you to “get yourselves over there now!” It’s pretty incredible. You can read all about the project here in this little daily called The New York Times. We’re big time. That’s right.
In a nutshell, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter (formely known as Piedmont Triad Research Park) is a collaboration between Wake Forest University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wexford Science and Technology, an outside development firm. The site, once home to a R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cigarette manufacturing plant, will now be home to state-of-the-art medical research labs and classrooms, collaborative work spaces, creative groups, Inmar as well as residential housing to create a new “knowledge community”. R.J.R. donated the site as a reinvestment in Winston-Salem.
Over $500 million has since been invested in this once barren part of the city and the gleaming revitalized structures all surround the project’s new urban square, Bailey Park. And that’s where Lindsey comes in.
As they worked to develop an ideal green space for the tenants of the new Quarter, the development team knew their first priority was a shift in perception. This was once an area of town where people had deemed unsafe. Engaged and thorough, Lindsey hopped a plane to NYC for a multi-day workshop with The Project for Public Spaces inspired in part by the work of Dan Biederman, the successful public park redeveloper who transformed the once dangerous and neglected Bryant Park in Manhattan. She soaked up so much insight on how to create a successful public space. She learned how to create an environment that feels safe though studied barometers “it’s important to first attract women, once they feel comfortable then the men will come. Availability of clean restrooms, moveable seating, dwell spaces and food and drink are also important.” It was fascinating. Knowing the amount of thought that went into Bailey Park gave me a newfound appreciation of the project. The Project for Public Space’s mentor, William H. Whyte said about creating public spaces “give them a place to sit and things to do, and people will come.” Following his lead, Lindsey worked with her team to do just that.
The overall landscaping plan and design for Bailey Park was led by Winston-Salem based Stimmel Associates, with Christy Turner and Jeremy Thorne serving as project leads. “Since 2012, they have invested so much of themselves into what you see today,” Lindsey shares.
Together they worked with a local architectural design firm, Stitch Design Shop and graphic design group, Device Creative Collaborative, to collaborate on the design and branding of the space including a covered stage and flexible signage. Colorful moveable chairs were brought in, clean modern restrooms and bays with power hookups were added for food trucks. Beautiful green space and manicured landscaping as well as bright inviting murals and round-the-clock security completed the park, all privately funded.
Programming came next. The park officially opened this past April and last Thursday, they hosted their largest event, a free concert sponsored by Flow Honda, with nearly 700 people in attendance. “It was so awesome seeing that many people in the park relaxing to music, kids playing, eating. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in awhile. It was so nice!” Talking with her it’s clear that Bailey Park is her baby. She has helped birth it’s current design, cares for it, has helped groom it and is now experiencing that feeling one gets when it is no longer just yours. It is the community’s.
After a few months under her belt, she is now working with tenants to bring in more amenities to further enhance the urban green space including games like corn hole and reading racks. She is also learning through trial and error how to help run a successful park. “With each new request, I learn something new.” It’s a work in progress.
One of the things she appreciates most about her work with the team behind the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is having the opportunity to both find and use her voice. “At first I wasn’t as vocal in meetings but I quickly realized that they actually want my opinion.” She loves showing off “her red chairs” in the reception area of 525 @ Vine. “I just knew they would be perfect.” So she was adamant, they listened and made it happen.
Looking ahead, she’s excited to be a more connected part of the future of Winston-Salem. We both agreed that it isn’t until you get involved that you can truly embrace and celebrate the city where you live. “It’s exciting to see the young creative community here really digging their feet in to make things happen.”
I, for one, am excited that I now know her, and together, we hope to do the same.
Come experience Bailey Park for yourself.
This all levels, evening yoga class will take place on the lower lawn at Bailey Park and will be led by fellow Townie, Elliott Watlington.