How Innovation Quarter has evolved the business community in Winston-Salem

How Innovation Quarter has evolved the business community in Winston-Salem

The creation of something remarkable often hinges on the fortuitous convergence of being in the appropriate location at the opportune moment. This is precisely the case with the Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem. Presently, this district has gained global recognition as an exceptionally distinctive mixed-use development.

Graydon Pleasants, Head of Real Estate Development for the Innovation Quarter, who is preparing to retire at the end of this month, expressed his admiration for the remarkable and distinctive nature of the iconic buildings within the Innovation Quarter. This development has become a noteworthy example of how non-traditional real estate development can create exceptional mixed-use environments. Pleasants stated that the Innovation Quarter has been warmly received and continues to attract interest from companies seeking to be a part of it.

The Innovation Quarter has played a vital role in the transformation of Winston-Salem from a city centered around the tobacco industry to one that now focuses on technology, medical advancements, and education. Notably, the district is situated within historically significant buildings, lending a sense of character and heritage to the area.

Spanning over 330 acres, the Innovation Quarter comprises 1.9 million square feet of real estate and serves as a hub for 3,600 workers and 90 companies. It is operated by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and encompasses a diverse array of research companies, businesses, education-centered organizations, and renowned institutions such as the Wake Forest School of Medicine and Winston-Salem State University.

Graydon Pleasants, who oversees site development and infrastructure for the Innovation Quarter, emphasized that the project has consistently exceeded expectations. He highlighted how the district has evolved into a thriving community centered around biotechnology and research. The Innovation Quarter serves as a catalyst for creativity and inclusivity, fostering daily interactions within the community. Pleasants noted that the district is attracting both large and small companies seeking an engaged workforce and an environment that appeals to younger employees.

Presently, the Innovation Quarter offers 770 apartments and lofts, providing accommodation for many of the individuals working or studying in the area. Residents are drawn to the vibrant dining scene, lively nightlife, and convenient access to their jobs and educational institutions.

Mark Owens, President and CEO of Greater Winston-Salem, Inc., is actively engaged in identifying companies that align well with the Innovation Quarter. He expressed a commitment to expanding the district’s economic impact on the community. Owens highlighted the Innovation Quarter’s unique attributes as a hub for laboratories, businesses, and startups, combined with lifestyle amenities that align with modern preferences for residential living. He described the district as a valuable asset and a source of pride for Winston-Salem.

Graydon Pleasants, who collaborates with various economic development professional organizations in Winston-Salem, revealed that they anticipate the Innovation Quarter to double in size within the next few years. Pleasants expressed confidence that the vacant spaces would be occupied swiftly, acknowledging that the impact of COVID-19 is difficult to predict. However, he mentioned a significant level of interest from potential anchor tenants, which has fostered cautious optimism about filling an additional 2 million square feet of space.

To market the unique spaces within the Innovation Quarter, including the historic Reynolds building, CBRE has been assisting in promotional efforts. These efforts aim not only to highlight the building’s historical significance but also to emphasize the numerous benefits it offers, such as tenant-exclusive events and activities, state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure, and access to conference centers like Biotech Place and Bailey Power Plant. Mark Owens emphasized that while the building possesses its distinctive charm, it accommodates a wide range of businesses. He highlighted the substantial growth and diversification of businesses within the Innovation Quarter, as it has become a sought-after location for companies seeking a vibrant and innovative environment.

While the Innovation Quarter is home to dozens of businesses, here are a few examples that provide unique services: [Note: The specific businesses are not mentioned in the provided text. If you have information about the specific businesses you would like to include, please provide that information, and I can incorporate it into the response.]

The Innovation Quarter has not only succeeded in attracting forward-thinking companies in the biotech industry with strong ties to scientific research but has also become a magnet for businesses seeking to harness technology in the realm of life sciences. Mark Owens emphasized the district’s evolution beyond being merely a workplace. The aim is to select companies and individuals who genuinely desire to be part of the Innovation Quarter, rather than those who feel compelled to be there.

With its expansive expanse, the officials overseeing the Innovation Quarter are actively working to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for all who call it home. Among the recent additions is Sparq, a small business launchpad that serves as a conduit, connecting small businesses to the district’s vast resources, networks, and opportunities. Owens, drawing on his experience in the chamber of commerce industry, acknowledges the power of collaboration in the Triad region, which has contributed to remarkable achievements like the Innovation Quarter. He highlights the abundance of positive developments taking place in the region, emphasizing that by uniting and promoting one another, they can compete with major metropolitan areas nationwide. Owens enthusiastically encourages individuals to visit and immerse themselves in the Innovation Quarter’s unique ambiance. He invites them to witness the district come alive at night, as it stands as a remarkable testament to the transformation of a former manufacturing area into an educational hub nurturing the talents and leaders of tomorrow.

Greg Wilson, an Executive Vice President at CBRE|Triad, has witnessed firsthand the significant impact of the Innovation Quarter on the commercial real estate market in the Triad region. Through his engagement with office and technology users, he has observed how the district has become a catalyst for community-building within similar industries, utilizing a historically significant space. Over the years, the Innovation Quarter has undergone a transformative journey, contributing to the growth of the Triad by providing a conducive environment for companies to thrive and expand.

CBRE|Triad reports that the office market in the Triad region currently experiences a 13.4 percent vacancy rate as companies navigate long-term decisions in the post-pandemic office landscape. Wilson believes that the Innovation Quarter serves as an exceptional model for revitalizing underutilized downtown areas. It not only acts as an incubator for technology and job creation but also incorporates a residential component, creating a well-rounded and vibrant ecosystem within the district.