(pictured above: The new 525@vine stands behind Wake Forest BioTech Place.)
A former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. factory is now a world-class research facility.
The grand opening was held for 525@vine, a five story, 234,000-square-foot mixed-use building, on June 13. The $75 million structure actually opened earlier in the year, and nearly 87 percent of its office space, research labs and other facilities have been leased.
The building, which stands off of Fifth Street and is recognizable throughout downtown by the bright red @ symbol at its apex, is in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter – swaths of downtown that Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are quickly transforming into one of the nation’s largest research parks. But 525@vine is owned by Wexford Science & Technology, a Baltimore-based biomedical realty company that renovated the long dormant building.
Dan Cramer, Wexford’s senior vice president for development, said urban research facilities like 525@vine are becoming common.
“One of the things that Wexford does best is create knowledge communities,” he said. “These are vibrant, mixed-use communities built on a foundation of discovery, innovations and entrepreneurial activities.”
Cramer said the researchers, tech-whizzes and others who work in research parks, like all-inclusive work communities, ones with housing, dining and entertainment facilities nearby.
There are already a number of lofts and apartments within walking distance of the Innovation Quarter; many more are currently being rehabbed from other former R.J.R Reynolds buildings. Bailey Park, which will boast a stage for free outdoor concerts and movie screenings, is expected to be one of the next Innovation Quarter projects to be completed.
An old railway that runs alongside 525@vine will be converted into a greenway for walking and biking. It will connect to the city’s existing greenway system. At least one cafe is already slated to open in the building. There is already a cafe/coffee shop and Allegacy Federal Credit Union Branch in Wake Forest BioTech Place, the research facility adjacent to 525@vine.
The building’s current tenants include the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, which operates a facility – complete with locker rooms, cardio machines, weights, spin and Zumba classes – on the ground floor of 525@vine. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s division of Public Health Sciences and Department of Physicians Assistant (PA) have been relocated to the building, bringing with them 450 faculty and staff. PA students are already using the building’s state-of-the-art classrooms for pre-clinical classes.
Forsyth Technical Community College will be moving its R.J Reynolds Corporate Training Center and Small Business Center to 525@vine.
“There will also be an opportunity for us to bring students who are in our biotechnology and nanotechnology associate degree programs into a first-class laboratory space,” said Forsyth Tech President Gary Green, one of many community and education leaders on hand for the grand opening.
Business tenants will include Clinical Ink, which will be moving its Winston-Salem office and about 30 employees into the building in September. The company makes Sure Source, a paperless system for electronically recording data from clinical trials on slate tablets that can then be shared online across the world.
“We went to market in early 2012,” said Chris Rand, Clinical Inks’ director of Global Sales. “We’re currently running slates globally throughout North America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Africa, Australia and moving into Asian markets later this year. And we are super excited to be moving down to the research park … and hopefully take advantage of a like-minded research setting.”
Also opening soon is Flywheel, which will feature open and enclosed working environments for up to 300 members to rent. The work spaces are furnished and high-speed wi-fi-ready. Flywheel will also provide spaces for play, including a coffee bar, pool hall, craft beer bar and an “IQ Court,” where members can play basketball.
Co-working spaces like Flywheel are the fastest growing sector of commercial real estate, according to Peter March, vice president of Workplace Strategies, which, along with WildFire and Storr Office Environment, is a partner in Flywheel.
“Over 40 percent of white collar workers are contingent workers; they’re either outsourced consultants or in-sourced consultants who are working on a mobile basis, so this is going to be kind of like a portal to the research park for the community at large, for folks who have those kinds of jobs, who want to co-locate and get engaged with all the energy that’s going on around the Innovation (Quarter),” March said.
Innovation Quarter officials are eager to tout the area’s public-friendliness. The greenway, Bailey Park (along with the former Bailey Power Plant that is being rehabbed into a shopping and dinning space), and the Quarter’s eateries are all open to the general public. Wake Forest BioTech Place also regularly opens its doors to community organizations for special events. In recent months, the Winston-Salem Urban League and Goler Community Development Corp. have held events there.