Rendering for Charlotte's new Innovation District, named "The Pearl"

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Atrium Health Executive Shares Updates on Charlotte’s New Innovation District

Later this year, Atrium Health will break ground on a new innovation district called “The Pearl.” Upon completion, it will serve as a breeding ground for innovation and creativity, welcoming people from all walks of life within the community. Dr. Rasu Shrestha, enterprise executive vice president and chief strategy and transformation officer shares how The Pearl will transform Charlotte as we know it:

Rasu B. Shrestha, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Atrium Health

Dr. Rasu Shrestha, enterprise executive vice president and chief strategy and transformation officer at Atrium Health, recently spoke at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Insights Forum to discuss “The Pearl,” Charlotte’s new innovation district. The event included industry and community leaders who discussed the expansion of the life sciences in the Charlotte region. Shrestha shared that the goal of The Pearl is to create a breeding ground for innovation and creativity that attracts the best and brightest learners, artists, entrepreneurs and executives from around the world.

Speaking to an audience of local community members and business leaders, Shrestha emphasized that, following in the national trend of expanded and increasing life science exploration in this area, The Pearl is less about Atrium Health, but more about building an ecosystem for what is needed in the local community.

“Atrium Health is a mere catalyst for the innovation that will take place in this space, and The Pearl is the result of the ecosystem in play,” Shrestha said. “A lot of thinking, working and planning has involved not just Atrium Health, but many others across Charlotte, the country and internationally, in the formulation of The Pearl.”

Innovation districts are designed to spur purposeful collaboration between researchers, students, doctors, engineers, corporate innovators and entrepreneurs. These groups make up an ecosystem that, together, are responsible for driving innovation and building the life sciences companies of the future. Through the intentional design of these innovation district communities, The Pearl will foster new partnerships, drive collaboration and diversify the economy of the entire region.

The Pearl innovation district will be a vibrant, mixed-use, amenity-rich community featuring education, retail, apartments, a hotel and an open community space, in addition to being ground-zero for entrepreneurial activity, research, discovery, corporate engagement and community outreach.

Shrestha shared how through Atrium Health’s partnership with Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Charlotte’s new innovation district will incorporate many of the best attributes of the Innovation Quarter (IQ), an existing, high-tech ecosystem that currently serves business, academic and societal needs in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Pearl will blend the successes of the IQ with the uniqueness of the local community to bring ideas, passion and curiosity and create a new area that will be transformative for Charlotte and the entire region. A second campus of Wake Forest University School of Medicine will be a central part of The Pearl.

The Pearl innovation district will be constructed near the historic Brooklyn District of Charlotte, where Pearl Street Park is located, originally founded as the first park for African American residents. Atrium Health is planning to make intentional investments to recognize the historical relevance this area had on Charlotte. This includes establishing a fund focused on providing health care scholarships for students from underserved neighborhoods. Other elements include building greenways and paths into the innovation district from surrounding neighborhoods.

Shrestha emphasized that none of the current and planned progress is accomplished or possible without the support and collaboration with public and private organizations. The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have committed to infrastructure improvements in the area. The overall impact to the community will be a tremendous creation of accessible jobs for both local and non-local jobseekers.

IRCAD North America will also be headquartered in the new innovation district. While IRCAD has locations around the globe, this will be the first and exclusive location for IRCAD in North America. IRCAD specializes in educating physicians from around the world in minimally invasive surgery techniques. It also features fundamental research laboratories and research and development units in computer science and robotics that design and develop tools for diagnosis, surgical planning and simulation aimed at improving and making surgical procedures safer. It will be the super-magnet for The Pearl, bringing some of the top global companies to Charlotte.

Groundbreaking for The Pearl will take place by the end of the 2022, and plans are for it to be up and running by 2025 with Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte  the first four-year school of medicine in Charlotte  in the Howard R. Levine Center for Education building and IRCAD North America anchoring the research facility.

Ending his update, Shrestha emphasized Atrium Health’s mission statement: To improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, and how the vision for The Pearl is an important part of being the national leader for health, learning and community.

“The last part of our mission statement – ‘for all’ – really tugs at our collective heart strings,” Shrestha commented. “It truly unites all of us in the room in the pursuit of pushing towards excellence in innovation, community redevelopment, job progression and economic mobility.”

To learn more about The Pearl, visit ThePearlCLT.com.