Reflecting the rich history of the neighborhood surrounding it, leaders from Atrium Health and Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, announced today that the new Charlotte innovation district, which will be the future home to Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte, will be known as “The Pearl.”
The Pearl innovation district will be constructed in an area of Charlotte formerly known as Brooklyn which, for years, was “a city within a city” where thriving African American businesses, faith communities and families lived, worked and played. Brooklyn was also nestled near Good Samaritan Hospital in Charlotte’s Third Ward – an African American hospital with roots to Atrium Health that was comprised of hundreds of doctors, nurses and health care workers who took great pride in caring for their community. In the 1950s and 60s, urban renewal overtook this area and approximately 1,000 families were displaced and more than 200 businesses and 12 churches were destroyed. One landmark that remains from the Brooklyn area is Pearl Street Park, the first African American park in Charlotte that continues to be a well-loved gathering place to this day.
“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. “I’m pleased to share that Charlotte’s new innovation district, ‘The Pearl,’ will be a place where Charlotte’s historic vitality meets its innovative future. It’s a place where excellence lives, and where excellence is learned.”
The Pearl innovation district, located at the intersection of Baxter and McDowell streets in Midtown Charlotte, is designed to be a place where people from all walks of life will feel welcome and grow together. It will be a mixed-use development featuring 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.
“It takes a great deal of time to create a pearl in its natural environment,” said Woods. “And, just like a pearl, our journey to build an innovation district will, no doubt, require time, energy and determination. However, with the support and the strength of our friends and partners from the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the State of North Carolina, together we will create the crowning jewel of the Queen City.”
Over the next 15 years, The Pearl and its tenants are projected to create more than 5,500 onsite jobs – 40% of which are not expected to require a college degree – and more than 11,500 jobs, in total, in the Charlotte community. Groundbreaking is expected later this year.
According to the Global Institute on Innovation Districts, innovation districts are “dense hubs of economic activity where innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and placemaking intersect.” While the focus of The Pearl is research and developing businesses, the existence of housing, public spaces and desirable amenities help create a sense of livability and community.
“The launch of the Pearl innovation district is being made possible, in large part, due to the strength of the partnership among Atrium Health, Wexford, local governments and the community,” said Thomas Osha, executive vice president for Wexford Science & Technology and board chair of the Global Institute on Innovation Districts. “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, all with the shared goal of creating an innovation ecosystem that is grounded in research and academics, 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.”
Wexford is also the developer of Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter, which also has deep ties with Atrium Health and Wake Forest University School of Medicine. With both school of medicine campuses located in the innovation districts, the goal is to develop the region into one of the leading areas for innovation in the nation, working in tandem to advance life-sciences research and development, as well as incubate new businesses in both locations.
As part of today’s announcement, Atrium Health and Wexford unveiled the new logo and website for The Pearl innovation district. Updates and announcements for The Pearl will be posted at www.ThePearlCLT.com.