GMAC Building

The former GMAC Building at 500 West Fifth St. is now owned by Flow 500 West Fifth LLC for development as offices.

Flywheel, a provider of rental networking spaces, is moving to the eighth floor of 500 West Fifth Street in downtown Winston-Salem.

The group, founded in September 2014, plans to move by October into the former GMAC building, which is anchored by Flow Automotive Cos.' headquarters and Winston Starts.

Flywheel provides a community work space, co-working spaces, for startups, consultants and freelancers.

Its membership was at 135 as of late June, including services, nonprofits, educational, corporate and startup companies. The number of employees at companies range from one to 16.

The move into the 18,035-square-foot space will more than double Flywheel's space.

"The new location will triple our private office count with larger offices, increase our co-working area by 25%," Flywheel managing partner Alicia Hardin said.

Greg Wilson, a partner in the Triad office of commercial real estate provider CBRE, which represents GMAC building, said the addition of Flywheel "will be a tremendous asset to the building.”

Local business leader Don Flow and Charlotte-based developer Grubb Properties announced in March 2017 plans to redevelop the 18-story building and an adjacent site extending to Fourth Street into a business center with retail spaces and apartments.

Flow 500 West Fifth LLC spent $6.15 million to buy the property from Slate Winston Holdings Inc, according to the Forsyth County Register of Deeds.

Flow has pledged to spend $10 million on upgrades to the building, including a major renovation of the street level space.

“The potential collaborations of Flywheel and Winston Starts will create a distinctive road map for an entrepreneur in our community and provide a critical mass of entrepreneurs who can work together,” Flow said.

4 colleges, 1 building

Flywheel's first home was in the 525@Vine building at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

It moved to the research park's Center for Design Innovation site at 450 Design Ave. in February 2017. The center is a partnership in education, research and design between Winston-Salem State University, UNC School of the Arts and Forsyth Technical Community College.

The design center said in a joint statement from UNCSA and WSSU that "the partnership with Flywheel has been and will continue to be beneficial to both organizations through synergistic work on economic and community development."

"This move also puts Flywheel in close proximity to university entrepreneurship and innovation programming of UNCSA, WSSU, Wake Forest, Salem Academy and College in the same building, expanding this hub of entrepreneurial activity.

"We now have an opportunity at (the Center for Design Innovation) to think about new ways to utilize the space, expand our existing studios and invest in new ideas to further our mission in the community," the universities said. "We look forward to announcing these developments in the coming months.

Peter Marsh, co-founder of the local Flywheel facility, said that "while we hate to leave the Center for Design Innovation, (the three groups) understand we need the additional capacity."

At the design center, Flywheel occupies the entire upper level, as well as having a conference center and event space available for institutional and community use.

"The fact that Flywheel is in need of additional space is encouraging relative to our efforts to build a strong entrepreneurial environment here in Winston Salem," Mayor Allen Joines said.

"By locating in proximity to Winston Starts, I believe both organizations will be benefit from the symbiotic relationship."

Marsh attributes Flywheel’s evolution to its idea-generation programs, business accelerators and “adding in the layer of programming that allows our service providers to share their expertise in the form of workshops and seminars and educational programs.”

Offerings include membership plans tailored to member needs, network resources and programs focused on startups, such as the New Ventures Accelerator, Idea Tap, and Startup Grind powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.

Startups that are expanding and adding jobs include: Orbital RX (software integration for hospital pharmacies); Leading Role (VR content development platform); Ampogee (operational excellence for production workers); Fluree (blockchain database platform); MedXoom (healthcare payment identity); Threat Sketch (cybersecurity); One Donation (charitable giving platform);and Wellnecity (actionable insights for self-insured benefits plans).

Membership fees vary depending on the space needs of members, ranging from $50 a month to $650 a month. Conference room space for members and nonmembers is available at an hourly rate.

Last year, Flywheel created a business-accelerator program and a business competition, and it raised investment money to benefit the startups.

“What we didn’t really anticipate was that ... community engagement piece that happens within Flywheel actually generates a lot of startup companies,” Marsh said.

“So these people meet each other, they get to know and trust each other, and they start to form companies around opportunities.”

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