This downtown district welcomes community and focuses on the future.
Innovation isn’t just a lofty concept in Winston-Salem, NC. It’s alive and well in such spaces as the Innovation Quarter.
A Hub of Activity
The vision of the Innovation Quarter is rooted in a longstanding culture of innovation in Winston-Salem, where companies like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Hanesbrands led the way during the turn of the century.
Today, the Innovation Quarter sits on 1.9 million square feet of reimagined historic tobacco factories donated by R.J. Reynolds for the redevelopment. The campus employs more than 3,700 people, hosts 170 companies and includes five academic institutions. Its flexible spaces and collaborative environment create a hub of startup activity, where the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem flourishes.
But it isn’t just a place to work and study. With its 1.6 acres of green space, greenways, and local shops and restaurants, the Innovation Quarter is a place for the community to gather.
Graydon Pleasants, head of real estate development at the Innovation Quarter, says their vision has been realized and represents a larger commitment that’s being embraced by organizations and institutions worldwide. “It represents the evolution of contemporary innovative development and philosophy and thinking,” he says. “We’ve been lucky enough to be on the forefront of that emerging school of thought.”
A Place to Gather
One key element throughout the Innovation Quarter is its human-centric design.
“We designed the spaces for being interactive, meaning lots of places where people run into each other,” Pleasants says. “This is one of the major concepts of innovation districts – random or planned collisions of people and ideas. It is woven into the architecture.”
Bailey Park is at the center of it all and is designed to adapt to any kind of community event, from food truck festivals to large concerts like Gears and Guitars to cultural celebrations like the Juneteenth Festival.
Research with Global Impact
Anchored within the Innovation Quarter is the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), a global hub of research in the field of regenerative medicine. Led by Dr. Anthony Atala, who was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of 14 Pioneers of Medical Progress in the 21st Century, WFIRM is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies, with many world firsts, including the development and implantation of the first engineered organ in a patient. In addition, a number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute.
WFIRM is also bringing together the world’s best resources to allow new companies and ideas within the sector to scale. For example, its RegeneratOR Test Bed includes a business incubator and training programs that aim to help the field move forward.
A Growing Vision
The Innovation Quarter is already recognized as one of the world’s leading innovation districts – but its vision continues to grow. The Innovation Quarter recently announced Phase II, which will include 10 more buildings, an additional 1 million square feet of office, lab and clinical space, and another 15 acres of green space, including a new public park.
This article was sponsored by Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.