Heads up about the next few days. I am out on PTO Weds and Thurs of this week, and then Friday is Homecoming and I have some responsibilities there. So these next few Daily Deacs are preposts.
Knowing that there is Clinton-Obama campaign event looming large, I would be covering it if I was in the office. Instead, I’d urge you to keep your eyes on the main WFU.edu page and/or Family News page for details.
I was sent a terrific article last week about Winston-Salem and how we have risen, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of a manufacturing town that lost many of its major corporations in the 90s and 2000s, and have now become a beacon for biotech and innovation.
If you don’t know the history of Winston-Salem, this is a wonderful look back at the origins of the city and the remarkable local leaders who helped save it from an uncertain future. I am including the full text below because I think it is so good. You can also find it on Politico, which has some great pictures to accompany the article.
Inside a suite of laboratories nestled amid what was once the world’s largest tobacco manufacturing complex, a team of researchers is growing human bladders, tracheas and muscles using the patients’ own cells. In another laboratory, workers are producing human ears and tissue with a 3D printer. In the not-too-distant future they hope to “bioprint” kidneys, noses, livers and other tailor-made organs and tissue for surgical implantation. It’s work that’s healing wounded soldiers and sick civilians, but it’s also a remarkably apt metaphor for the regeneration that has helped bring this city of 230,000 back to life.
Just 20 years ago, Winston-Salem was a city in decline. Prostitutes and drug dealers roamed Trade Street, once the commercial heart of the city, while to the east, abandoned tobacco factory buildings stretched for block after block, a reminder of the downsizing of R.J. Reynolds, the city’s most famous corporate citizen, which had merged with food giant Nabisco and moved its headquarters to Atlanta. Punk rockers were jamming late into the night in lonely loft space at the center of the city because there was nobody around to bother. Once one of the richest and most powerful cities in the Southeast, it had lost tens of thousands of jobs as its manufacturing base retrenched or fled the North Carolina Piedmont altogether; its leadership was in shock. “We had been like a baby in the womb,” then Mayor Martha Wood later told the New York Times. “Reynolds had really nurtured this city. And over the years, the parent had provided.”
Today, the skeletal remains of Winston-Salem’s manufacturing history have been reanimated as labs, co-working space, university classrooms and swank loft apartments. People do yoga on the lawns and sip coffee under the umbrellas of a new downtown park completed last year in the shadow of the R.J. Reynolds company’s coal-fired power plant, now being transformed into restaurants and research labs. The expanding 200-acre research complex—dubbed the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter—employs more than 3,100 in 65 companies and five academic institutions, and is preparing to more than double its footprint. Trade Street is now a thriving arts-and-entertainment quarter, a shopping and nightlife destination, just as it was in the postwar years. The city’s once-neglected 1920s skyscrapers have been transformed into apartments and a hip Kimpton hotel. Over $1.6 billion has been invested in downtown over the past 15 years, much of it the result of the creation of the Innovation Quarter, the nation’s fastest growing research park which has its most famous rival, the Research Triangle near Raleigh, looking over its shoulder, not least because its located in the heart of a thriving city, not in an isolated suburban campus.
How did a complacent manufacturing city reincarnate itself as a creative economy powerhouse? Because a group of civic-minded power brokers rallied around their city’s few remaining assets, partnered with scientists and punk rockers, and doggedly built the foundations of a new economy, brick by brick, from the carcass of the old. “It wasn’t one person or thing that made it all happen, it was everyone from the grassroots to the corporate leaders coming together,” says Jeffery L. Smith, a litigation paralegal who has run the influential community news site Smitty’s Notes since 1997. “We realized it would take all of us to get this hog out of the ditch.”
For more than a century, the hog had been fat and happy. The factories of Richard J. Reynolds, a southern Virginia tobacco farmer who had moved to town in 1874 to make use of its railroad depot, were churning out millions of tons of pipe and rolling tobacco even before they introduced a game-changing product to the market: a pre-packaged cigarette made with mild tobacco imported from Turkey. These Camels, introduced in 1913, were an instant hit, with nearly a half billion sold in a year, and were ubiquitous by the end of the First World War, on account of Reynolds having won a concession to supply them to the troops. More than a quarter of the city’s people worked for the company, which paid high wages, offered stock shares and provided a range of benefits, from free child care to at-cost cafeteria lunches. By the 1950s—before most Americans were aware of the baleful effects of smoking—the company’s Winston, Salem and Camel brands were the best-selling in the U.S. after Philip Morris’ Marlboros, and Prince Albert was the top-selling pipe tobacco. “Life was good then,” investigative journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar wrote in their history of the company, Barbarians at the Gate. “It was often said that Reynolds’s only problem was how to turn out cigarettes fast enough and how to ship all that money back to Wachovia Bank.”
The wealth transformed the city’s skyline, starting with the 18-story Nissen Building, the tallest in the state when it was completed in 1927, with modern accoutrements like attendant-less elevators, air conditioning and an indoor shopping gallery. Two years later, R.J. Reynolds completed a new headquarters at 4th and Main Street, a 22-story art deco masterpiece that served as the model for the Empire State Building. Fueled by Reynolds deposits, Wachovia became one of the most powerful banks in the South, and two sons of its co-founder and president, Bowman and James Gray, would go on to head R.J. Reynolds in the 1930s. On his death, Bowman’s bequest was used in 1941 to lure Wake Forest College’s School of Medicine to the city from Wake Forest, N.C., 100 miles to the east. Reynolds’ own heirs underwrote the transfer of the rest of the liberal arts college in 1956, giving them part of their Reynolda Estate on which to build their new campus. The Reynolds would give parks, endow foundations, high schools and the North Carolina School of the Arts, which housed one of the best filmmaking schools in the United States. R.J. himself bought out the tobacco firm owned by the Hanes brothers in the 1890s, and they used the proceeds to create what would become Hanes Corporation, one of the worlds largest producers of men’s underwear and socks. Reynolds executive Egbert Davis helped found North Carolina Baptist hospital in 1922 and his son, flying enthusiast Tom Davis, built Piedmont Airlines into a major regional airline after World War II.
“You cannot believe how much money was flowing through this city in the 1950s, so there were a lot of people to be patrons,” says philanthropist Ralph Hanes Womble, great grandson of one of the Hanes Brothers and a past CEO of his family branch’s business, Hanes Dye & Finishing. “All the corporations were very generous, and if you wanted a coliseum there was no bond or anything. You just called three offices and they built it.” But of all the investments and philanthropic pursuits, poaching Wake Forest College and its medical school turned out to be the most critical. “Nobody knew in the 1950s that that was what would save our ass,” Womble notes. “Because nobody knew everything else would be going away.”
As in other American cities, the construction of the Interstate highway system and the suburbanization that followed undercut the central city in the 1960s and 1970s. Competition from suburban shopping centers destroyed the central business district. Highways blasted their way through the largely African-American east side and “urban renewal” programs sent wrecking balls through the city’s fabric, replacing its 19th and early 20th century streetscapes with parking lots, bunker-like office buildings and, on Trade Street, an ill-conceived pedestrian shopping mall. Wachovia and R.J. Reynolds built new skyscrapers in the 1970s and 1980s, but the people who worked in them rarely strayed far from their offices. “Downtown was desolate,” Smith recalls of the scene at the end of the 1980s. “At five o’clock everybody pretty much got the heck out of downtown and the sidewalks basically rolled up.”
But the city was soon to learn that even the corporate titans could be taken away. Without warning, in January 1987, Reynolds boss F. Ross Johnson announced the company—which had merged with Nabisco the year before—was moving its headquarters to Atlanta because Winston-Salem was too “bucolic” to attract young professionals. Only a few hundred of the 12,000 Reynolds jobs in town would be shed initially, but Johnson—an outsider with a penchant for limousines, Rolls-Royces, and other status symbols—was an instant pariah. Cartoons depicting him as King Kong climbing the old Reynolds tower appeared on company bulletin boards, while “Honk if you’re bucolic” stickers appeared on cars across the city. Over the next year and a half, the bad news kept coming: Piedmont was snapped up by USAir; McLean Trucking and Pilot Freight Carriers shut down, unable to cope with deregulation; deregulation also buffeted AT&T, which closed an equipment assembly plant, putting 3,300 out of work.
Then in the fall of 1988 news broke that Reynolds was being acquired in a $25-billion leveraged buyout, with Johnson walking away with a $50-million golden parachute that landed him on the cover of Time to illustrate a story on corporate greed. Three thousand jobs were cut and the now-indebted company was no longer in any position to lavish largess on its old hometown. “It’s the demise of a great institution,” a former executive told the Wall Street Journal. “It will never be the same again.”
Mayor Allen Joines, who was then assistant city manager, estimates the city lost 10,000 jobs in a year and a half. “We were faced with the very real possibility that our community would dry up completely,” he recalls. “A friend of mine said ‘The closer one gets to the guillotine, the more focused one becomes.’ Well, we were getting really focused.”
The Reynolds buyout left an enormous hole in the heart of the city. Over the previous three years, the tobacco giant had been moving its manufacturing operations from its sprawling complex adjacent to downtown to a new $1-billion, state-of-the-art, 2.5-million-square-foot plant in the suburban enclave of Tobaccoville, capable of producing more than half a million cigarettes a minute. Before the buyout, the 2 million square feet of factories, warehouses, power plants, machine shops and outbuildings the company had left behind were slated to be redeveloped into applied research park, a place where the city’s academic and industrial researchers could collaborate to develop new technologies and, hopefully, new industries for the city. But the buyout had saddled Reynolds with $23 billion in debt; the plan was dead.
Nobody was more disappointed than Dr. Douglas Maynard, chair of radiology at Wake Forest’s medical school, who had been in preliminary talks with Reynolds executives about collaborating on such a park, which would give the medical school the research space and commercialization opportunities it craved. “They had a lot of money and could have renovated the complex themselves,” he says. “Now they didn’t have the cash to invest. Their consultant told them to tear them all down.” Fortunately, the company didn’t do that, instead giving one building to the county government and selling a well-equipped research and development building to the medical school at the bargain price of $1 million in 1992. Though nobody knew it yet, the seed had just been planted for the city’s rebirth.
Wake Forest Medical, located with Baptist Hospital a mile and a half away on Hawthorne Hill and surrounded by homes, had been hungry for research space but had nowhere to expand. With some prodding, the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology agreed to relocate to the Reynolds research and development building even though it was in a no man’s land of parking lots and abandoned buildings. “We killed ourselves with catering and lunches and making sure the police were everywhere ” to make sure people felt safe, recalls Gayle Anderson, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, who championed the park within the business community. “We knew that was the beachhead. If it collapsed, it would be all over.” Six months in, the researchers were happy and the little outpost—just a block from City Hall—had a pulse.
Anderson prevailed on her Chamber of Commerce colleagues to hire consultants to advise on the next steps. The first consultant, Vernon George, recommended four new buildings be built around the existing one and a new plaza, creating 440,000 square feet of new space that would absorb demand for research space and potential commercial spin-off companies through 2008. The second consultant, Mike Alder, the former technology development director for the state of Utah, told them to get Wachovia and another locally-headquartered bank, BB&T, to help get venture capital for potential tech start ups; get the city and county to build essential infrastructure; and fully commit to the medical school, their real potential engine. “It doesn’t always happen this way, but because of the tragedy they’d had with the collapse of manufacturing, this wasn’t just a report they put on the shelf,” Alder recalls. “Everyone from the banks to the newspapers to Wake Forest followed up.” The local development corporation—whose members included the universities, corporations and government entities—raised millions in state, city and private funds to start work on an 80,000-square-foot building and the repurposing of Reynolds Factory 251 into a mixed-use condominium-and-commerce center. While they were underway, Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. recruited one of the top research park managers in the country to oversee the effort.
“The biggest challenge was to educate the leaders of this manufacturing town into the new tech transfer way” of growing small companies out of an existing strength, says Bill Dean, who had been director of Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park—the nation’s second largest—before moving to Winston in 1999. “They wanted instant gratification: ‘Why can’t we have a big pharmaceutical company come here? And I’d say: ‘If you’re a CEO, why would you do that, since we don’t yet have the infrastructure or the tech employment base to support them?’”
Nor was it clear why anyone would want to come to downtown Winston. “We were talking about bringing business in and so on, but the thing is you can’t invite people to come to a cocktail party if you’re living room looks like crap,” recalls Womble, who would help rally the city’s elite to do something. “And our living room looked like crap!”
Meanwhile, a bunch of kids just out of high school, and pining for a real urban scene, had been poking around downtown for a place to practice their music. They came across a former meatpacking plant at 3rd and Patterson with a For Sale sign that was literally falling off the front and a ground floor filled with obsolete machinery. They rented the upstairs for $200 a month as a jam space. “It seemed like we were in New York when we were in that loft space, but downtown had hit rock bottom,” recalls John Bryan, who bought the 20,000-square-foot structure with his friends in 1997 for $60,000 to ensure they weren’t evicted. “That was the dream, to bring back downtown, like a new frontier. My mom cried because I wasn’t going to college. ‘Join the military! Get a job with UPS!’ It was crazy.”
The young punk rockers dubbed the building The Werehouse and soon were booking cutting-edge acts from Montreal and South Florida to play gigs there. “The police left us alone once we let them in and showed them we weren’t doing drugs, but the bureaucracy and the fire department were a problem,” he recalls. Bryan wanted to open a coffee shop, farmer’s market and other businesses, but the century-old building needed tens of thousands of dollars to be brought up to code. So he went to the office of one of the city’s most influential men, arts benefactor Ralph Hanes, and, unannounced, knocked on the door. “This is a small enough place where you can do that if you really need to,” Bryan recalls. “He didn’t call the police.” Instead, Hanes—who had helped found the city’s art school and rubbed elbows with Buckminster Fuller—listened to his pitch for a music, art, culture and small business venue sandwiched between the corporate towers and the nascent research park. “He was pretty much silent,” Bryan says. “He researched me after I left and then he was like a bull dog, cutting through bureaucracy and helping us network.”
“The town leaders really understood that, ‘Oh, we have some young people down there trying to do something, that demographic we’re supposed to attract,’ ” he adds. “This was very much a patriarchy kind of company town, but the patriarchy wasn’t so arrogant as to think they had all the answers just because they had the money. And I think they understand that money happens in a different way now.”
Soon there was a loan from the downtown development corporation to bring the building up to code. A town councilor for whom Bryan had built kitchen cabinets helped calm the code inspectors until the work could be completed, while a local architect donated his services to get required paperwork stamped and delivered. The Werehouse became a hub of activity, much to the pleasure of the people moving into the condos at Albert Hall. Artists were starting to rent cheap digs on nearby Trade Street. People who’d been pining for urban life could, for the first time in decades, find a little if they looked for it.
Three blocks to the north, the leaders of the Goler Memorial AME Zion Church were taking notice as well. The church had once stood amid the center of African-American commerce, but the end of segregation, the coming of Highway 52 and the expansion of the Reynolds complex had pushed most of its residents to the suburbs. The 1919 Gothic Revival structure was now stranded in a sea of vacant buildings, facing the only holdout, the funeral parlor across the street. The congregation was about to leave as well, having bought 14 acres outside of town where they intended to build a new church complex. “When we saw some of this activity downtown we thought, ‘Hey, we might want to stay and take advantage of some of this,’” recalls congregant Michael Suggs who now heads the church’s community development corporation. Instead of building a new sanctuary, AME Zion snapped up 15 acres of land and buildings around the church, hired Pittsburgh’s Urban Design Associates to create a master plan and got themselves into the development business. “Bottom line: We want to be part of this renaissance that was taking place instead of letting it happen to us,” Suggs explains.
Goler’s plan envisioned a mixed-income, mixed-use, multi-ethnic, multi-generational neighborhood of high-end lofts, affordable apartments and elderly housing with restaurants, childcare and retail. “Just like a utopia where everybody could live,” Suggs says with a laugh. The CDC tapped housing grants, tax credits, foundations, bank loans and bonds to buy the properties back from church and finance development. The first portion to get underway was an $18-million renovation of a seven-story Brown & Williamson tobacco factory into loft apartments and 12,000 square feet of commercial space. “That got people’s attention,” Suggs recalls. “They knew we were serious.”
By this time another lightning bolt had struck the city. Wachovia announced in April 2001 that it was merging with First Union and would move its headquarters to Charlotte. Wachovia, founded in 1879, had been involved in most every important initiative in the city’s history, and its current chair, Bud Baker, had only months before convened the city’s power brokers in a new economic development group, the Winston-Salem Alliance. “It must have taken months and months to put this all together,” then-mayor Jack Cavanagh complained to the Wall Street Journal. “We were hearing about all the good things they’re going to do for the community, and all the while they were selling us out.”
Walker had assembled the Winston-Salem Alliance to coordinate efforts to save the city. “The thing they used to say about Winston, that there were all these deals in smoke-filled rooms, but the real problem was that none of that was happening,” says Womble, one of the Alliance’s founding members. “Where it used to be that the CEOs went to Chamber and Rotary and saw each other all the time, now there were national and international boards and these guys didn’t even know each other. Bud had convened it to get all the kings in the room talking about what the hell we were going to do, but when Wachovia was acquired, he was just out of here, mentally and everything.”
R.J. Reynolds CEO Andrew Schindler took up the reins of the group, which included more than 40 kingpins, from the CEO of Hanes and the partners of the largest law firms to the university and college presidents and research park head Bill Dean. They spearheaded the creation of the Millennium Fund, a civic war chest, raising $44 million in nine months, to shore up the downtown development corporation and make catalytic investments throughout downtown. Dissatisfied with Cavanagh’s performance as mayor, they asked their own Alliance executive director, former assistant city manager Allen Joines, to challenge him in 2001. A Democrat backed by many of the city’s big Republican donors, Joines has been mayor ever since while retaining his day job at the Alliance. “What we said from the outset is that we would never ask the local government for money, and that we would be totally transparent in everything we did so there would be no conflicts,” Joines explains. “What we’ve been trying to be is a catalyst, and we needed some political leadership as well.”
The Millennium Fund’s first big intervention was the transform the Nissen Building—the 18-story downtown office tower that, in 1927, had briefly been North Carolina’s tallest—into apartments, along with restaurants, retail and a rooftop pool. At $26 million it was the largest residential development in the city’s history. “Empty, the building is a reminder of how far we have to go to make downtown a vibrant destination,” the Winston-Salem Journal editorial board noted. “Filled with residents in its 142 apartments, it is a magnet for retail, dining and entertainment venues.” Despite a multi-million dollar commitment by the Alliance, the project had nearly collapsed when a divided city council declined to give it a symbolic vote of support. It had to be rescued a second time by Womble and a dozen other civic-minded businessmen who collectively came up with $1 million in start-up costs. “Restaurants are important, but residential is essential,” Womble, who has been chair of the Millennium Fund since its creation, says of the focus. “If there’s nobody walking around at night, nobody is going to drive downtown to eat.”
Soon the Millennium Fund was behind most every scene. It provided funds for small businesses and annual festivals that would have closed during the post-9/11 recession. It helped buy land for a greenway and minor league baseball stadium, and gave $300,000 to support the Goler project. Meanwhile the Alliance played—and continues to play—an informal coordinating role between the city’s various development and business groups, whose boards tend to be cross-pollinated with the Alliance and one another. “The Alliance doesn’t have authority over anybody, but it does have the power of the persons that are a part of it,” says the Chamber’s Gayle Anderson. “If something important stalls or needs a push, they can put money behind it.”
And a good thing, too, because as downtown started coming alive, just to the east the research park was preparing for the biggest push of all.
By 2001, the little research park had expanded from one to three buildings, with dozens of people living in the converted Albert Hall and a facility built on spec occupied by an R.J. Reynolds spin-off company that hoped to find therapeutic uses for nicotine and saw value in being co-located with Wake Forest’s pharmacology department. But the medical school—which had merged with Baptist Memorial to form the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center—still needed 200,000 square feet for research space. The school asked its real estate advisor to find 30 or 40 acres where it could build a research campus. “It turned out there was a lot of land that could be had, like everything from Third Street to Ram’s Drive, upwards of 140 acres if you bought from a bus company, concrete makers, the railroad and moved a cell tower,” recalls the advisor, Graydon Pleasants. “I went back to them and said: How much appetite do you have for this stuff?” The answer from Douglas Maynard and medical school dean Dick Dean (no relation to Bill Dean) was: ‘A lot.’
Pleasants was soon at work, quietly buying up the great swath of land, which bordered on the existing research park and straddled both sides of a highway. “Somewhere in there, Dick Dean was going around to all the power people and saying ‘Here’s what we’re doing and we really need your support’ because we realized we had a pretty big undertaking on our hands,” Pleasants recalls. When he got to Schindler, the head of R.J. Reynolds, the latter made an unexpected offer: the donation of the entire 40-acre Reynolds factory complex, nearly 3 million square feet of mothballed buildings abutting the Wake Forest acquisitions on the north and just four blocks from both the research park and Trade Street. “We did a lot of soul searching on that, we toured the properties, tested them, and asked ourselves, can we handle this?” Pleasants, now the Innovation Quarter’s head of real estate development, recalls.
In August 2002, Wake Forest Baptist Medical unveiled its plan to the public as the theme to “Star Wars” played in the background: a 180-acre innovation quarter bordering on downtown for nearly a mile, from the foot of the Goler church to Salem Creek. When built out over 20 years, it was expected to create 10,000 high paying jobs and pump billions into the local economy. It needed $70 million in public infrastructure, but Wake Forest was willing to take much of the capital risk to renovate existing buildings and ultimately build dozens of new ones. They found a development partner and built a 180,000-square-foot building to house Dr. Anthony Atala’s regenerative medicine research team—they grow replacement organs for people using their own cells—which Wake Forest poached from Harvard Medical School.
Then, just as things were getting underway, the world economy melted down. Their primary development partner, Streuver Brothers, collapsed. Park director Bill Dean and three other staff members were laid off for lack of funds. John D. McConnell, the incoming CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, of which the research park was now a part, was in shock. “I arrived in November 2008 and looked at the buildings, the plans, and the weakening of our balance sheet I said ‘You have to be kidding!’” he recalls. “We didn’t see how we were going to do this.”
But there was a silver lining. The Wake Forest team wound up with one of their developer’s sub-contractors, Wexford Science and Technology, a Baltimore firm that specialized in partnerships with academic institutions and had an expertise in the use of historic tax credits, which cut the cost of renovating the old Reynolds buildings. “That became the secret sauce in covering nearly half the costs,” McConnell says. Wexford set out to transform one structure after another, turning factories into chic, post-industrial spaces, with soaring atriums, exposed beams and brick work, and expansive views of downtown and the rail yards. Over a million square feet of buildings would be converted over the next six years, and Wake Forest, which planned to occupy sections of many of the buildings, held its breath that tenants would move in beside them.
But as the country slowly emerged from the recession, Winston-Salem had all the pieces in place. Restaurants and shops had blossomed around the Nissen Building, and The Werehouse scene had spawned numerous businesses, including a coffee roasting company, recording studio, wholesale bakery and what some said was the city’s first decent cocktail bar. The Goler team had transformed the old Brown & Williamson factory into 82 loft apartments, constructed a new 79-unit senior living facility and a daycare adjacent to the park, and were putting together a large mixed-use complex. At the center of town, R.J. Reynolds’ old Art Deco headquarters building, which had stood empty for years, had been sold to Kimpton Hotels, which was spending $60 million to convert it into a luxury boutique hotel with 116 residential apartments on the upper floors. “When we were trying to recruit the next faculty from Harvard or MIT or Berkeley we would take them downtown, whereas before we’d hope they didn’t see it,” says Wake Forest Medical CEO McConnell. “We’d driven residential, residential had driven the downtown revitalization, and it was all feeding back on itself.”
The Innovation Quarter’s buildings filled up as fast as downtown’s lofts, which pulled more companies into its orbit. There were manufacturers of laboratory equipment, start-ups spun-off from medical school research projects, a biotech-oriented law firm and co-working space, and a maker of clinical research software developers. Inmar, a data analytics company that sifts and mines the meta-data from shopping carts and pharmacy baskets, occupied an entire four-story former cigarette factory, employing 900. Forsyth Technical Community College started training nanotech and biotech students at a $7 million facility, while thousands of patients passed through Wake Forest’s community health clinic on the north end of the quarter. People from the various business and the surrounding neighborhoods started rubbing shoulders in Bailey Park, a $2 million public space in the middle of the quarter completed in 2015 that’s given the quarter civic visibility. “Innovation used to be scientists in a lab or entrepreneurs in a garage, but today it is almost entirely a social enterprise,” says Eric Tomlinson, Wake Forest Baptist Medical’s chief innovation officer and president of the Innovation Quarter. “You have to build a vibrant community where different groups of people are socially engaged.”
Now the quarter’s facilities employ 3,200 and are 97-percent leased, and Tomlinson and his colleagues are busy developing an $800-million expansion plan for the 70 undeveloped acres south of the old Reynolds factories where Wake Forest had originally planned to build its park. When completed 15 years hence, it will double the quarter’s square footage, boosting employment to 10,000, more than worked in the Reynolds factories before their move to Tobaccoville. Earlier this week, they unveiled plans for what’s believed to be the largest residential project in downtown’s history, a 340-unit building with ground-floor retail located in what’s now a surface parking lot adjacent to the Bailey Park and power plant.
Another challenge is making sure the benefits of the renaissance are widely shared, especially by working-class areas like East Winston, an African-American neighborhood just to the east of the Innovation Quarter, but isolated from it and downtown by Highway 52. “We call ourselves the city of arts and innovation, but the reality is that a lot of the people who were working in the manufacturing jobs have not aligned their skills with what this new economy is going to be, and its creating two cities,” says Suggs at Goler, which is turning its attention eastward. “We will be really proud of this development when it starts to jump over the highway.”
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