Jan 18, 2023 - Development

New renderings: Work begins on Charlotte’s innovation district and med school campus

Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte

Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte

Crews officially broke ground Tuesday on a state-of-the-art innovation district called “The Pearl” in midtown, which will house the Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte.

Why it matters: Charlotte is the largest U.S. city without a four-year medical school. Officials say The Pearl will be transformative for the region, spurring innovation, entrepreneurialism and employment in science and research.

  • Over the next 15 years, The Pearl and its tenants will create more than 5,500 onsite jobs, per a statement from Atrium. All told, the project could create around 11,500 total throughout Mecklenburg County.

Details: On campus, you’ll find the Howard R. Levine Center for Education, which will house the school of medicine, Wake Forest University School of Business, Wake Forest School for Professional Studies and Carolinas College of Health Sciences.

  • The campus will also have a 331,000-square-foot research building, retail, apartments, a hotel and open community spaces.
  • The development is near the intersection of Baxter and South McDowell streets.

What they’re saying: The Pearl will be a “city within a city,” according to Gene Woods, CEO of Charlotte-based Advocate Health, which Atrium is part of.

  • “Not only will The Pearl serve as a major engine of economic opportunity, but it will also house game-changing academic programs for learners of all degree levels and set the stage for innovative health science businesses to grow into the core companies of Charlotte’s future,” Woods said in a statement.

Context: The Pearl is situated where Brooklyn, once the largest Black neighborhood in Charlotte, was before it was razed in the name of urban renewal. The name is a nod to Pearl Street Park, the first park built on land the city purchased for Black residents.

  • Neighbors surrounding the area have said they worry that The Pearl’s development could lead to rising property values and displacement of longtime residents and businesses.
  • In 2021, the city and county approved an incentives deal worth $75 million combined for The Pearl.

Go deeper: Neighbors worry about ripple effects of Atrium Health’s Innovation District

What’s next: The med school is expected to seat its first class in 2024 and open the following year.

Renderings courtesy of Wexford Science & Technology.

Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte
Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte
Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte
Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte
Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte
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