CHARLOTTE – Atrium Health and Wexford Science & Technology, LLC announced a new project in Charlotte this week, billing it as a future innovation district in the Queen City.

The project, to be constructed in the neighborhood of Charlotte known as “Brooklyn,” will house the future Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte campus, and will be known as “The Pearl,” according to a statement.

Pearl Street Park, which the statement described as “the first African American park in Charlotte,” remains in the neighborhood.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the region saw the displacement of some 1,000 Black families and some 200 businesses.  During this period, 12 churches were also destroyed, according to the company’s statement.

“Many might say this area of town and its rich history have been largely overlooked. But we’re here now to begin a new chapter to this story and honor this special place as we empower the neighborhoods around it, which are shaped by diverse people and perspectives, rooted in inclusivity and belonging, and filled with endless potential,” said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health in the statement.

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Job creation expected

The new project will be based along the intersection of Baxter Street and McDowell Street, and the developers plan a mixed-use development that features “education, retail, apartments, a hotel and an open community space, in addition to being ground-zero for entrepreneurial activity, research and development that is expected to reshape the economy of the Charlotte region,” according to the statement.

For example, the projections shared in the statement note that through the next 15 years, there will be more than 5,500 onsite jobs and support an additional 11,500 jobs across Charlotte.

“Charlotte’s new innovation district, ‘The Pearl,’ will be a place where Charlotte’s historic vitality meets its innovative future,” said Woods.  “It’s a place where excellence lives, and where excellence is learned.”

According to the statement, the project could break ground later this year.

“Both the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have approved significant public investments that will be amplified by an additional $1.5 billion in private investments,” said Thomas Osha, executive vice president for Wexford Science & Technology and board chair of the Global Institute on Innovation Districts.

Wexford is also the developer of Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter, with ties to Atrium Health and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The Charlotte school of medicine will be the first in the region, and was announced in 2021.

Osha noted that the project goals are the creation of an innovation ecosystem “grounded in research and academics,” adding that the entire ecosystem “will include corporate innovators, incubate new ideas and businesses, attract venture funding and scale growth businesses, particularly minority-owned ventures, into a geography where these assets and attributes are amplified for innovation, community and economic impact.”