WINSTON-SALEM —R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. announced Wednesday that it has entered into an agreement to donate a significant portion of the Whitaker Park manufacturing plant and surrounding properties to a local redevelopment group, WPDA Inc. WPDA is a nonprofit corporation created by Winston-Salem Business Inc., the Winston-Salem Alliance and Wake Forest University for economic and redevelopment purposes.
As part of the agreement, R.J. Reynolds will donate a laboratory building to WPDA early this year. The Whitaker Park plant and remaining properties will be transferred to the group over the next year or two.
“We’re pleased that a local group has stepped forward and committed resources towards repurposing this great and historic plant and its surrounding properties,” said Mark A. Peters, senior vice president and chief financial officer of R.J. Reynolds. “We’re confident these properties will play a key role in the economic development and transformational growth of Winston-Salem and the greater Triad region.”
The laboratory building donation, which consists of a single 70,000-square-foot building on about 4.0 acres of land, is being donated first because of its potential for near-term economic development opportunities. The remaining donation will include about 120 acres of prime commercial and industrial land, along with buildings totaling about 1.7 million square feet.
“This is an incredible gift by R.J. Reynolds to WPDA,” said Don Flow, WPDA board chairman. “Whitaker Park has been such a strong presence in our community for decades and I look forward to working with the WPDA Board to repurpose the property to expand the tax base and create new jobs for the citizens of our community.”
Named in honor of John C. Whitaker, a former chairman of R.J. Reynolds, the Whitaker Park manufacturing plant opened in 1961 and initially covered about 14 acres, including 615,295 square feet of floor space. Designed by R.J. Reynolds’ engineering department and constructed by employees, it was the world’s largest and most modern cigarette plant at the time.