Wake Forest Innovation Quarter’s mission is still to drive economic development and build a vibrant community, Graydon Pleasants said Thursday during a town hall event at the innovation district in downtown Winston-Salem.

“The physical environment here has changed rather quickly,” said Pleasants, who is head of real estate development at the Innovation Quarter. “Everybody wants to know what’s coming next.”

He said that Link Apartments with its 245 residential units will open this summer.

He also said the Bailey Power Plant South, a project under development by Front Street Capital, will have nearly 100,000 square feet of office and retail space.

“There are lots of opportunities for new growth,” Pleasants said.

Bailey Power Plant South will mainly be anchored by The Variable marketing agency.

He added that the future of the Innovation Quarter will be its property farther south of the Inmar Inc. building in the district as well as south of Third Street in downtown Winston-Salem.

Other speakers included Dr. Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and chairman of the Department of Urology at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital; Karen Barnes, executive director of Venture Café; Stan Jewell, chief executive and president of Renfro; Wilson Lester, the executive director of Piedmont Business Capital; Olga Pierrakos, chairwoman of Wake Forest University Department of Engineering; and Ryan Schmaltz — director of the Media and Emerging Technology Lab at UNC School of the Arts.

Barnes and Lester gave an update about the minority- and women-owned business accelerator that will operate out of Bailey Power Plant in downtown Winston-Salem.

Venture Cafe Winston-Salem was chosen in November to oversee the accelerator and is in partnership with Piedmont Business Capital to provide support, training and access to funding for local small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Lester said that the name of the project will be Access Center for Equity + Success and will open in April.

Atala shared some of the work being done at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“We’re trying to solve some of the challenges that we have with tissue and organ shortage,” Atala said. “This is a real problem today.”

Work at the institute includes creating skin replacement tissues, cell therapy, regeneration of kidney tissue, and the use of an integrated tissue and organ printing system.

In speaking of the role of engineers in society, Pierrakos showed in her presentation such 20th Century innovations as electrification, automobile, internet, laser and fiber optics, airplane, radio and television.

Her 21st Century list included energy conservation, resource protection, waste management, weather prediction and control, preservation of species, and genetics and cloning.

“Engineering is about innovation,” Pierrakos said. “Engineering is about improving lives.”

She said 42 percent of the students in WFU’s Engineering program are women and 20 percent are minorities.

Jewell spoke of the importance of knowing when a company should transform and how Renfro, one of the largest legwear companies in the world, now has its digital, innovation and new brands departments at Innovation Quarter.

Schmaltz talked about the virtual reality and augmentative reality work being done at the Media and Emerging Technology Lab at UNC School of the Arts.

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fdaniel@wsjournal.com 336-727-7366 @fdanielWSJ

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