WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is continuing to take steps forward. Today marked the official opening of 525@vine, a mixed-use laboratory and office building, which was formerly an R.J. Reynolds tobacco factory, built in 1926.
"In two years it's gone from being pretty much a dump to a pretty inspirational set of buildings," said Dr. Eric Tomlinson, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter president.
This project almost didn't happen. Before the recession the planning came to a halt.
"All of the development that we had in mind and the developer that we had in mind just evaporated," said Dr. Tomlinson.
A few years back, the idea was re-ignited. In the summer of 2012 renovation on the building, now owned by Wexford Science & Technology, began. The cost of the renovation was about $75 million.
The building is five stories full of revamped working space. As of today, 74 percent of it has been rented out.
On the bottom floor is a company called Flywheel, which is creating an area where professionals can work in a co-working space.
"Being right in the middle of it is extremely exciting," said Flywheel partner Brad Bennett.
A few floors up, students at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Department of Physician Assistant Studies are learning skills to keep us healthy.
"This new facility allows them to substantially expand the size of their class to create more physicians assistants," said Dr. John D. McConnell, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
"We're trying to create that harmony between living and working in an urban setting," said Dr. Tomlinson.
Officials say thousands of people are expected to be working, living and recreating in and around Innovation Quarter.
"So that's a new hub for economic revitalization in Winston-Salem," said Dr. Tomlinson.
He says that's the key to keeping those they're teaching from leaving when their education is complete.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Division of Public Health Sciences and the Innovation Quarter YMCA of Northwest North Carolina are moved into 525@vine. Forsyth Tech is also in the building, with an expected opening date sometime this summer. They will also soon be joined by the headquarters of Clinical Ink, a provider of electronic data-capturing technology for clinical research.