A long-vacant tobacco warehouse in downtown Winston-Salem sprang back to life Tuesday with a new purpose.

For most students, the opening of Wake Downtown means an opportunity to take new classes in things like biochemistry, medicinal drug development and engineering. Junior Jaime Fashimpour says it's also the perfect place for an art major like her to study preservation of old buildings.

“Being downtown, we're kind of in the center of this really historic area, and I know we're going to go to on-site places to see these historic sites instead of just studying them from books and things like that,” she says.

She's a native of Lexington and remembers driving through Winston-Salem and seeing the skyline punctuated by the old tobacco smokestacks. But she says, until now, she never had a reason to go in the old buildings, and she's thrilled to get an inside view.

Wake Downtown will put students together with Wake Forest Medical School students, teachers and researchers who are in a building next door. Rebecca Alexander, a chemistry professor and director of academic programming for Wake Downtown, says that closeness will help boost collaboration, and it won't be limited to just Wake students.,

"We're also right adjacent to Winston-Salem State, to the School of the Arts, to Salem College, there's Forsyth Tech classes at 525@Vine in Innovation Quarter - so being part of the education community in Winston-Salem in new ways,” she says.

The 125,000-square-foot Wake Downtown building is part of Innovation Quarter, a revitalization of former tobacco manufacturing facilities. Its opening marks the first large-scale offering of undergraduate classrooms away from the Reynolda campus since the college moved here in the 1950s.

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