This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.
In terms of commercial development, the Triangle is booming, and has recently boasted some of its busiest building years on record. While much of this development has been concentrated in larger downtown urban cores, development efforts are expanding beyond just the tri-cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
Wake Forest, once considered just another Triangle bedroom community, is far from a sleepy town. Boasting resources like the Wireless Research Center, a nonprofit research center dedicated to applied research and engineering, the community has proven itself to be an asset to both the Triangle tech ecosystem and globally. Additionally, Wake Forest is the base for several entrepreneurial business ventures, corporate companies and tech startups with the credible expectation that it will soon be home to many more.
In tandem with seeing tremendous business success, strategic economic development in the area is ramping up, reflecting the boom of the region, but also the town’s efforts to make it a place where people can live, work, play, create and innovate.
“We’ve tried to make strategic public investment that will spur private development,” said Kip Padgett, town manager for the Town of Wake Forest. “When we started our new economic development efforts, we really began to focus on marketing Wake Forest as a place for businesses. We want to establish our name and image in the region as a whole and capitalize on the growth that’s occurring in and around Wake Forest.”
Here’s the lowdown on five of the most significant Wake Forest developments in the works.
Live-Work-Play Tech Park
In 2018, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership, with the full support of the Town, entered into a joint-land development agreement with private landowners to develop nearly 200 acres situated near the heart of Wake Forest into a mixed-use technology park.
This progressive project will embody the mixed-use intentions of a “live, work, play” model and is currently in the master planning stage, including land-use options as well as market analysis and financial modeling.
Situated just off Capital Boulevard/US 1, a market analysis on the tech park property indicates up to 180,000 square feet of office space, 372,000 square feet of retail space and 720 housing units of various varieties could be supported on the site through 2023 alone.
Plans include integrating the town’s robust greenway system through the site as well as creating a highly-programmed public park at the heart of the project. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which owns the land, said it sees the Tech Park having a major impact on the business community.
“The Tech Park will be amenity rich, and feature residential and retail opportunities to the community with Class A offices, flex and coworking space, research labs and more,” said Adrienne Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and former economic director for Wake County Economic Development. “This Tech Park provides another great option for companies that are considering the Triangle area.”
While including progressive residential and retail amenities to the community, the emphasis of this future innovative space is on creating opportunities for people who live in Wake Forest to also work there. Cole believes the Tech Park will be catalytic for northern Wake County.
Completion of the Tech Park will be phased over time and is envisioned as a sustained strategic economic driver over the next 10 to 15 years.
Loading Dock Wake Forest
Coworking and collaborative workspace incubator Loading Dock, with several existing Raleigh locations, will soon be launching a site in Wake Forest.
Loading Dock Wake Forest will be located at 525 S. White Street near the heart of downtown Wake Forest. The $3 million building revitalization project will introduce roughly 24,000 square feet of entrepreneurial coworking and incubator space to the community, and represents a significant component of the strategic expansion of downtown Wake Forest.
The innovative space is anticipated to include the following:
- 45 private offices
- 7,350 square feet of coworking space
- 6 conference rooms
- 471 square feet of flex/training space (ideal for potential accelerator and entrepreneurial programs)
- 1,500 square feet of dining space for a local restaurant
- Other dining options
- Mezzanine space, including a queen’s balcony
- Indoor and outdoor event space
- Outdoor patio
“Wake Forest was really yearning for a premium, professional and approachable coworking shared workspace provider. When they approached us, I think we were the right fit for the town with what we do and how we really focus on entrepreneurship and small business, which the Town is also particularly focused on,” said Clark Rinehart, director of community for Loading Dock Raleigh. “The town really wants to see people growing and thriving from a professional standpoint. Loading Dock felt like we could be a great resource for the town as they grew into a live-work-play model.”
Construction on Loading Dock Wake Forest will begin later this year with a projected opening date in 2021.
Grove 98 is self-declared to be the new destination for living, boutique shopping and dining in Wake Forest.
Centrally located on a 66-acre site off Highway 98, the mixed-use development will feature a 100,000-square-foot Wegmans Food Market and an abundance of residential and retail opportunities.
The Wegmans Food Market will be one of the first few in the state, following locations in Raleigh, Cary and Chapel Hill. Wake Forest’s acquisition of a Wegmans gives credence to the fortitude found in the community’s local economy and is expected to draw customers from surrounding areas to Wake Forest as well.
With excellent access to Capital Boulevard/US 1, Highway 98 and a planned extension of Ligon Mill Road, the site anticipates bringing opportunities for new and exciting seasonal activities to the surrounding community such as concerts, movies on the green, holiday celebrations, art fairs and more.
Wegmans, the first phase of the larger development, is anticipated to open in 2021 with plans for the remainder of Grove 98’s development to follow soon thereafter.
Industrial Park Expansion Projects
The 150-acre South Forest Industrial Park hosts more than 700,000 square feet of office and industrial space, and is home to an array of businesses ranging from artistic model design and manufacturing, to lightning cable production and pharmaceutical supply.
Plans for two significant expansions to Wake Forest’s industrial ecosystem are underway, led by Wake Forest-owned Moffat Properties as well as newcomer Merritt Properties. The industrial projects together will add 112 acres to the area surrounding South Forest Industrial Park, and nearly 500,000 square feet of additional office and flex space to this strategic hub of tech and industrial activity.
A significant component of Merritt Properties’ Capital Business Park, which is situated adjacent to existing South Forest Industrial Park, is aimed at enhancing local connectivity and navigability. The site will connect South Forest Park to Ligon Mill Road, a major local throughway, which will significantly aid local traffic congestion. Additionally, the expansion will feature access and a trailhead to Wake Forest’s rapidly expanding greenway system.
Moffat Properties’ expansions across three separate sites feature a CSX-approved rail site and a significant increase to available space in the South Forest Park for both new and existing companies in Wake Forest.
Both projects are underway, and development is slated to occur both speculatively and via new tenant demand.
Downtown Wake Forest Expansion & Beautification
Wake Forest’s downtown is in the midst of a vital renaissance, bringing new life to the community’s vibrant local culture and solidifying its downtown identity.
Guided by the city’s Renaissance Plan for strategic development, Downtown Wake Forest is undergoing extensive expansion and beautification efforts. With nearly $28 million of public and private investment in 2019 alone, the town is ushering in new elements of walkability, residential opportunities, business space options and more in the heart of Wake Forest.
Developments transforming downtown include:
- PowerHouse Row, a $13 million mixed-use residential development
- The Retreat at Renaissance, a residential property of unique townhomes
- Loading Dock Wake Forest
- Dozens of new businesses like Norse Brewing Company, Tonic and Unwined on White
Additionally, as part of the Town of Wake Forest’s continued efforts toward implementing its Renaissance Plan, $5.5 million was recently invested into local streetscaping projects to create scenic walkability and a southward expansion of the downtown business area.
“Several years ago, we did one section of South White Street, which goes right through our downtown, and that has seen a lot of success. The Board [of Commissioners] approved us doing the next phase, which is the other end of South White Street,” Padgett said. “We hope that all of this development will give both our citizens and other Triangle residents a choice. Many of our residents commute into Raleigh for work, but all of these developments will provide more opportunities for them to work in Wake Forest where they live. Additionally, these economic development initiatives will diversify our tax base.”
A chief goal for the Town of Wake Forest, guided by its strategic plan for 2017 through 2022, is for progressive economic development. The development of multiple significant Town-led and private-industry-led projects stands as a testament to the pro-growth and pro-business climate found in both Wake Forest and the larger Triangle community.
“Our mantra is ‘bit-city energy, small-town charm,'” said Jason Cannon, president of the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership. “We’ve had the charm for quite awhile — it’s exciting to see projects like these declare that big-city energy here is also alive and well. It will only increase opportunity and improve the quality of life for those who get the benefit of calling this place home.”
This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.