Amenities, Diversity Are Key Ingredients of Innovation Communities

By on October 16, 2018

From ULI:  There is no “secret sauce” vital to creating an innovation community, but certain ingredients are necessary, ULI members were told during the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting in Boston.

“Every innovation community should be powered to be unique and different,” said Tim Gaidis, vice president and senior project designer in the St. Louis office of design, architecture, engineering, and urban planning firm HOK.

Innovation centers, also called innovation districts, are popping up all over and in various shapes and sizes, said Gaidis. “What an innovation community is not is a gathering just of physical space,” he continued. “Innovation communities are more than just buildings. They are strategically built around the idea that we are more than the sum of our parts, especially with access to the most important ingredient of all: a diverse community of big thinkers and risk takers.”

St. Louis’s Cortex is a successful example of an innovation community, he added. A tax-exempt 501(c)3, Cortex was formed in St. Louis in 2002 by Washington University, BJC Healthcare, St. Louis University, University of Missouri—St. Louis, and Missouri Botanical Garden to capture for the area the commercial benefits of university and regional corporate research.

“Cortex has amenities around it that support the companies—places where people can live, work, play, entertain—all the things you need today,” he explained. “It continues to grow. Private projects developed around Cortex in the last 24 months total $650 million.”

CIC, originally called Cambridge Innovation Center and founded by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology entrepreneurs, selected Cortex as its first expansion outside its home base at Kendall Square because of its proximity to universities, said Dougan Sherwood, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and an adviser to CIC, a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based firm that supports the real estate needs of entrepreneurs. CIC provided high-quality, flexible office and coworking spaces, as well as amenities such as community kitchens and concierge services.

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