The name of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter has been streamlined to simply “Innovation Quarter,” the institution announced last week. This, the latest of appellations given to the renovated area on the east side of downtown Winston-Salem and its group of businesses and educational facilities, is the sleekest and perhaps the most accurate — as Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines told the Journal, it “more clearly reflects the community-wide impact of this project.”
Frankly, that’s what most of us call it anyway.
Ultimately, the change is just a matter of rebranding to encourage future investment — and to try to lure more members of the community to participate in activities in the area.
“The Innovation Quarter has become much more than just Wake Forest research, but we heard comments about how or why they would interact with what seems to be research and people with Ph.Ds,” James Patterson, a marketing and communications director for the quarter, told the Journal’s Richard Craver. “There’s a lot more going on here. When people visit the district and come upon yoga classes taking place, or they attend concerts and movies, they tend to marvel that those things are going on here. We really needed the brand to reflect that, while also having an eye for the deep history and architectural identity that has existed here for decades.”
We hope it does encourage residents to explore this part of town, still relatively new, with its restaurants and shops, as well as a different architectural vibe. A trip there can feel like visiting a different city entirely. It’s very refreshing.
The 1.2-million-square-foot district is still governed by the Wake Forest School of Medicine under the auspices of Wake Forest University. Nothing in terms of finances or infrastructure is expected to change just yet.
Some feel a bit of trepidation because of a partnership planned between Wake Forest University, its health care system and Atrium Health of Charlotte — details are due at the end of March. Especially after BB&T’s merger with SunTrust Banks, which led to moving its corporate headquarters to Charlotte — along with capital and personnel — a new arrangement can be unsettling. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have invested heavily in the project — at least $56 million from the city and at least $5.85 million from the county — and there’s still a lot of room for growth in the space between the main campus and the Center for Design Innovation. Once projected to employ 15,000 people, employment in the district is currently around 3,600 workers.
It might be wise for the Innovation Quarter to take steps beyond a name change to reassure the public that we’re not about to see another drain of resources.
But for now, we’ll take the change as a sign of hope that the district wants to be a more integrated part of the Winston-Salem community and still has more to offer in the future. We encourage Innovation Quarter leaders to continue to reach out to the rest of the community — and those who have not yet ventured there to do so soon.