R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. will announce today an economic development tied to its former Whitaker Park manufacturing operations.
The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Whitaker Park fountain area off Reynolds Boulevard. Joseph Fragnito, president and chief commercial officer of Reynolds Tobacco, will lead the event.
Reynolds declined to provide additional information on the announcement.
In January 2015, Reynolds announced the donation of 120 acres and buildings totaling 1.7 million square feet at the campus.
The donation was made to Whitaker Park Development Authority, a nonprofit corporation created in 2011 by Winston-Salem Business Inc., the Winston-Salem Alliance and Wake Forest University.
In a Reynolds' land map, the Whitaker Park plant on the north side of Reynolds Boulevard is referred to as the West property. Several buildings are designated as the East property.
Not included in the donation at that time was the central property in between, which includes several buildings and a power plant facility.
Bob Leak Jr., president of Winston-Salem Business and the Whitaker Park authority, said in January 2015 that the 120 acres consisted of "prime commercial and industrial land" along with the buildings. Part of what could make the campus more attractive is adding a more-efficient roadway into the property from U.S. 52.
The goal was to have the land donation completed by January 2017, with the potential for more buildings to be donated in early 2017.
Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have agreed to provide up to $4 million each toward the initial project.
Mayor Allen Joines said that based on the economic modeling done by the authority, "we believe that 10,000 to 15,000 new jobs can be created in the repurposed Whitaker Park area."
By comparison, Whitaker Park, named after former Reynolds Chairman John Whitaker, had more than 2,000 workers at its peak.
Reynolds' previous largest single infrastructure donation came in 1987, after its board of directors made the decision to move the RJR Nabisco headquarters from 1110 Reynolds Blvd. to Atlanta. The 520,000-square-foot building was built in 1977 and is across the street from Whitaker Park. It was donated to Wake Forest, which converted it into University Corporate Center.
The company also has donated several buildings that form a major portion of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem.
When Whitaker Park opened in 1961 at a cost of $32 million, it was considered the world's largest and most modern cigarette-manufacturing plant. In today's dollars, the plant would have cost $260.7 million to build, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Reynolds said in May 2010 it was closing the 790,300-square-foot plant as part of moving all of its manufacturing production to its 2 million-square-foot Tobaccoville plant. Most production was shut down by mid-2012.
The Whitaker Park Development Authority was formed, with Reynolds' blessing, to chart the property's future "for charitable and educational purposes" at a time when there were several large industrial properties available.
Leak said among options being considered are manufacturing and industrial, warehousing, distribution, and possibly retail and residential.
The first tenant into the renovated Whitaker Park space is Reason to Believe, which opened there in April 2016.
Reason To Believe, known as RTB, is renting about 8,000 square feet in the lab building at 95 W. 32nd St., which overall has 50,000 square feet of rentable space. The manufacturer of technology-based products for the health of hair, skin and nails, is based in Raleigh.
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