In 1986, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. began moving its production facilities out of Winston-Salem, N.C. Starting in late 2005, RJR began donating its land and buildings to the newly formed Piedmont Triad Research Park, which was charged with developing and marketing a new downtown R&D center for the city.
Still, many of the old RJR properties languished, leaving a desolate eight-block void in Winston-Salem’s downtown. Conditions remained virtually stagnant until 2010, when developer Wexford Science & Technology stepped in and purchased the property.
WAKE FOREST BIOTECH PLACE
Submitting Firm: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. (CM)
Owner: Wexford Science & Technology, LLC
Architect: Gaudreau, Inc.
Structural engineer: Faisant Associates
MEP engineer: Kilbart, Inc.
Size: 252,000 sf
Construction cost: $74 million
Construction time: June 2010 to December 2011
Delivery method: CM at risk
In the next 18 months, Wexford and its construction manager, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., led Building Team members—Gaudreau, Inc. (architect); Faisant Associates (SE); and Kilbart, Inc. (MEP)—in the complete revamping of two historic buildings on the site.
Reconstruction centered on Building 91.1, a historic (1937) five-story former machine shop, with its distinctive façade of glass blocks, many of which were damaged. The Building Team repointed, relocated, or replaced 65,869 glass blocks.
Maintaining the historical integrity of these old facilities while upgrading them for use as laboratories proved a formidable task. Most notable was the requirement to reuse existing windows, most of which were in dilapidated condition, as well as the stipulation to reuse reclaimed wood floors, even though it would be extremely difficult to make the substrate accommodate the elevation offsets.
Moreover, the project had to obtain a certificate of occupancy by the end of 2011. Working overtime, Whiting-Turner crews completed the work on schedule. The finished product was accepted as a certified historic project.
Requirements were less stringent for Building 91.2, a three-story brick and cast-in-place structure dating from 1963. Here, the Building Team opened up the interior by adding 88 punched windows and storefront glazing, along with a 10,600-sf atrium skylight.
However, the bottom of Building 91.2’s third floor was 10 feet or less from the second-floor slab, which would provide insufficient headroom for modern laboratory spaces. The Building Team had to “surgically remove” the third-floor structure and raise it 18 inches, even as other trades were working nearby.
Wake Forest Biotech Place was completed last December. Roughly 80% of the 252,000-sf interior is devoted to Class A laboratory space (anchored by Wake Forest Baptist Hospital); the remainder provides offices for the PTRP, a credit union, a conference center suite, and incubator space for R&D firms.
The project, which is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, holds the promise of a new tomorrow for downtown Winston-Salem. +