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Communities Reshape Unused Sites, Buildings to Spur Tech Growth

May 22, 2013

London's Mayor Boris Johnson has announced an initiative to transform Olympic Park into a creative and digital business hub for the city. According to an article from startups.uk, the proposed redevelopment promises to boost the United Kingdom's (UK) GDP by $450 million ($692.5 million US) and create more than 6,500 new jobs. In partnership with the London Legacy Development Corporation, the city will make major investments in the areas surrounding the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, including the construction of three feature buildings:

  • A 300,000 square-foot innovation center;
  • A 750 seat auditorium; and,
  • A 650,000 square-foot building housing educational space, broadcast studios, office space and a state-of-the-art data center.

The project, dubbed iCITY, also will include the creation of accelerator and incubator space for creative and digital business startups. They will be located in the building that was used for press and broadcasting during the 2012 Olympics. Visit iCITY's website...

Over the last year, several U.S. cities have proposed similar adaptive re-use projects — the redevelopment of an old historical site or building for a new purpose — to spur growth in their communities burgeoning tech sectors. Many of these proposed projects are creative answers to large plots of lands or industrial facilities left vacant by major corporations leaving the area or shutting down. Common in the rust belt, cities are looking towards industrial areas as the home for mixed-use redevelopment to attract high-tech companies, build new trendy housing and improve urban landscapes.

CORTEX — a bioscience and technology research hub in midtown St. Louis, MO — announced a long anticipated adaptive re-use project that helped attract Cambridge Innovation Center to the area, one of the nation's leading business incubators. According to Stltoday.com, the $73 million project will convert the site of a former telephone factory into a space that houses laboratories and other research space. This project is one of many intended by CORTEX leaders to turn the area's underutizlied warehouses and factories into a hub for technology and medical research. Visit CORTEX's site...

In Milwaukee, WI, the site of the former Pabst Brewery Complex is in the midst of a wide-scale adaptive re-use plan that includes an incubator for industrial and manufacturing companies. In partnership with the Brewery Project LLC, the plan also calls for residential, office and retail spaces that will maintain many features of the complex's industrial past including a recently opened steampunk-inspired boutique hotel. City officials hope the area will help attract a younger, creative class to the city. Visit the development's website...

In Baltimore, MD, the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) announced that it will move to a historic industrial building that was once home to the King Cork and Seal Company. Driven by rapid revitalization and redevelopment in the area surrounding their new home, ETC hopes its adaptive re-use project will be in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit of ”building something from nothing.“ The new location will house 31 resident startup companies and serve as a hub for ETC's portfolio of virtual companies. Read the announcement...

Beyond reusing existing buildings and land for technology facilitites, some cities have turned to adaptive re-use projects that make their urban tech district's brand more exciting and unique in the hope of attracting and retaining a creative class. As part of their 16 tech district plan, the city of Indianapolis partnered with a private real estate firm to redevelop an abandoned minor league baseball stadium, Built in 1931, the art deco stadium is being transformed into residential loft space. The developer intends to honor the historical site by keeping many of the elements of the stadium intact including the scoreboard and by transforming the field into green space for residents. In an article from Governing, the city views the $22 million Stadium Lofts project as a key to increasing momentum of the 16 tech district redevelopment. The city hopes to transform this area into a hub for the life sciences industry, given its proximity to a university, a medical school and hospitals.

Maryland, Missouri, Wisconsinincubators, metros