To say that RJ Reynolds is synonymous with Winston-Salem could be construed as an understatement. First the man, and then the company, helped build the city into one of the most prosperous in all of the south, a powerhouse with global name recognition exceeding its rival to the east.
Though the modern company, Reynolds American, employs a mere 12 percent of what RJR once did in its heyday, the company is solidifying its legacy for another century of innovation.
The deal to purchase Lorillard, and spin off several of the brands that made Reynolds famous, will send ripples across the Triad, as production increases in Forsyth County and the potential result in Greensboro remains unknown.
But it’s the transformation of the downtown Winston-Salem landscape that could leave an even larger impact on the city’s economic well being.
Anyone who grew up in Winston-Salem can’t help but marvel at the Innovation Quarter, comprised of a series of properties Reynolds sold to Wake Forest University. Driving up Main Street and looking down toward buildings where our parents and grandparents once labored to make cigarettes and seeing the shiny glass windows and hearing the hum of digital innovation is exhilarating.
Knowing that 21 st century creators are working and living in buildings with a legacy tied to the city’s agricultural past is a marvel of repurposing, one that many cities in our region have no way to emulate.
And perhaps the best is yet to come. It will be difficult to surpass the marvel of Inmar and the 525@Vine multiuse building that opened last month, but two projects in the works could do just that.
The Bailey Power Plant has undergone transformation from a dirty coal station to a potentially game changing mixed-use facility. The 103,000 square feet inside the plant is under consideration for everything from restaurant and entertainment space to the possible relocation of SciWorks from its current location on the city’s north side, just off US 52 at Hanes Mill Road. Having undergone a $2 million clean up the facility is a jewel in the rough.
But the crown jewel is obviously the Reynolds Building on Main Street, which was recently sold to PMC Property Group for $7.8 million.
Developers plan to spend $60 million renovating the 22-story building into an upscale hotel on the first six floors, with 120 high-end apartments throughout the remainder.
It’s hard to imagine just how hip Winston-Salem will be once the Power Plant and the Reynolds Building finish their transformation. But when that day comes, city leaders should lay a wreath at the statue of old RJ Reynolds himself and thank the day he rode his horse into town. !
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