The Long Branch Trail, which spans the 1.7-mile length of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at the north end to Rams Drive in the south, officially opened last month on a discontinued Norfolk-Southern rail line.
“On a Winston-Salem scale, this is our version of [the High Line],” said Graydon Pleasants, head of real estate development for the Innovation Quarter.
The paved multi-use trail uses the original rail bridges over Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh streets, providing a grade separation above the street grid that gives strollers, runners and cyclists a panoramic view of the downtown skyline. The original rail bridges, one of which dates back to 1916, still accommodate a single rail line that runs parallel to the trail from Third Street to 27th Street. Pleasants said the NC Department of Transportation Rail Division purchased the rail corridor from Norfolk-Southern, and it could potentially serve as a future light-rail or trolley line.
“They’ve been good partners to us,” he said.
The Long Branch Trail, named after a vanished African-American neighborhood, runs along the back side of a string of buildings, part of the historic Reynolds tobacco works complex, that are now occupied by tech workers and graduate students. As the trail runs past Inmar, 525@Vine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Piedmont Leaf Lofts, it has the feel of a railway platform.