Winston-Salem is a shining example of why it is important to have a good education to fall back on in times of need.
A bit over two decades ago, textiles were bidding farewell to the Winston-Salem scene and tobacco as a business was going into its long, steady decline. Small cities around the country with similar losses have withered away and become just shells of their previous selves. But in Winston-Salem, the city dug in and started reinventing itself – creating new industries, promoting entrepreneurship, developing its art scene and most importantly, leveraging the educational resources on hand to chart a path to a better day.
Wake Forest University was at the forefront of that charge and their long-standing relationships with both the Reynolds family and Reynolds corporate assets would create one of the cornerstones of the city’s rebirth, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. Since the first work more than 20 years ago, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter has converted old Reynolds properties into a high tech entrepreneurial hub for the city while melding history and new ideas into opportunities. As office spaces were developed, companies began flocking to the area bringing research, technology and marketing jobs (among others to the area). The project has continued to grow and grow and grow.
This year, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter may have one of its busiest growth spurts so far.
“We’ve had a good start to the year,” WF Innovation Quarter President Dr. Eric Tomlinson said. “Wake Downtown has moved 18 new undergrad courses here and that will mean hundreds of students and faculty will be coming here each day eventually.”
These courses will center on biomedical sciences and engineering and will make use of the Reynolds Tobacco Co. 60 Series building.
Tomlinson was quick to point out that while the WF Innovation Quarter does feature Wake Forest in its name, partnerships with Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College have been cornerstones of the development. In addition, the overall success of the project had been greatly influenced and assisted by the City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Dr. Tomlinson also said the Bailey Power Plant property within the Quarter would be seeing major activity this year. Approximately two thirds of the large facility will be redeveloped by Wexford Science and Technology, a realty company that focuses on bio-medical clients and properties.
“We’re right on track to finish work on the main structure in December of 2017,” Dr. Tomlinson said. “The project will bring together office, retail and entertainment spaces suited for small company presences and larger enterprises.”
Projects like this one and the overall WF Innovation Quarter are an opportunity for corporate America to participate alongside of the innovation level grassroots entrepreneurs, benefitting interests both big and small, Dr. Tomlinson explained.
Residential spaces are a big part of the WF Innovation Quarter project as well. Not only can adding residential facilities provide housing for some of the workers, it can also provide real time customers and patrons to the support businesses springing up within the project and those growing in its shade.
This summer, Dr. Tomlinson said, the 757 Patterson project will finish, unveiling 115 luxury apartments in the 700 block of Patterson Avenue right in the heart of the quarter. This will be joined in the coming months by a very large, more affordable living set of apartments.
Called the Link Apartments, Tomlinson said the project is being done by Grubb Properties and will feature a 343-apartment complex designed to meet the growing demand for affordable housing downtown. The apartments will be built around a dedicated parking deck that should house upwards of 900 spots for residents’ automobiles, addressing a need that would have to be met to make downtown living more hospitable and economical. The parking deck should be completed in 2017 and the projected completion of the apartments is scheduled for 2019.
Another amenity to the WF Innovation Quarter will be the completion of two sections of the Greenway Trail this June, opening up bicycling and walking opportunities for the area.
Venture Café Winston-Salem will also debut this year for the WF Innovation Quarter. Beginning this spring, the Venture Café will begin hosting weekly events aimed at providing entrepreneurs and innovators with links to experienced business and research developers. Dr. Tomlinson explained the events will focus on entrepreneurial development and participants can learn about building businesses, handling finances and a host of other subjects. Winston-Salem will only be the fifth city in the world to host a Venture Café (others are located in Cambridge, UK; St. Louis; Miami, and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.)