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University of Florida, Concept, Trimark Boost Gainesville’s Innovation District

Source: Mirage News, 12/8/23

For Original Article Click HERE

The University of Florida Board of Trustees was briefed today on a new plan to join Concept Companies and Trimark Properties in developing 50 acres east of campus into a world-class destination for Fortune 500 research companies and creating a talent pipeline for UF students seeking high-paying jobs.

This joint master development venture, known as Innovation District Developers, LLC, will further advance Gainesville’s Innovation District and bring it closer to achieving its identity as a bastion of progress.

“UF and Gainesville are on an amazing trajectory together, and this bold, new plan for the Innovation District captures the excitement of where we’re headed,” said Mori Hosseini, UF Board of Trustees chair. “We are committed to helping this vital link between our campus and downtown Gainesville reach its fullest potential.”

UF Trustee David Brandon called the Innovation District property “an absolute jewel, and it’s gratifying to see that Concept and Trimark recognize its tremendous potential. The vision for the Innovation District that was born nearly a decade and a half ago has been re-fueled and reimagined, and I’m confident we have all the right pieces and players now to move it forward.”

UF President Ben Sasse said the project is a perfect compliment to the direction UF will be taking as it becomes a new model for public research universities.

“The nation’s No. 1 public university needs a top-flight community as a partner, and this project demonstrates just how committed Gainesville is to charting a bright future of innovation, job creation and economic impact,” Sasse said. “If we’re all pulling oars together, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.”

Gainesville’s Innovation District, which began to take shape in 2010, is a center of urban technology and business, located between UF and downtown Gainesville. It is two blocks from campus and two blocks from downtown, near Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest 10th Street – the former home of Alachua General Hospital.

The district currently serves as the home of UF Innovate | The Hub – with more than 80 businesses (ranging from startups to publicly-traded corporations), various restaurants, and residential and mixed-use buildings. The area has long been identified as one of Gainesville’s key opportunities for regional economic impact and development.

Brian Crawford, the founder and CEO of Concept Companies, echoed UF leadership’s sentiments.

“We aim to create a mixed-use environment for all sectors – from biotech and semiconductor to agriculture AI and healthcare research – to benefit from the proximity to the country’s top public university and the resources of our community,” Crawford said “We want this district to become a thriving ecosystem of possibility.”

In addition to being named the nation’s top public university by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, UF recently announced its $1.085 billion in research expenditures in fiscal year 2022 placed it 25th among all U.S. universities, up from 27th in 2021. UF also is a national leader in artificial intelligence, building AI into its entire curriculum and is home to the brand new Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology, a multidisciplinary space for medicine, pharmacy, and engineering that will serve as a hub for advancing computing, communication, and cyber technologies and further support UF’s work to integrate AI across the curriculum.

Detailed plans for the district’s further development include a total buildout of 1.2-million square feet of space, with construction targeted for late 2024. The development is outlined in six phases and includes science and technology research and design buildings; four parking garages; multifamily housing to fill the gap in professional, urban-style housing in the area; and a mix of retail, restaurant, and entertainment uses.

The goals of recruiting and retaining talent, providing professional housing, and creating a vibrant ecosystem match the stature and future plans of UF. The expansion hopes to leverage UF’s No. 1 ranking in innovation impact in 2020, $1.25 billion dollars in research expenditures, $12 billion invested in incubator companies, and unified commitment to innovations that tackle the world’s greatest problems.

Additional plans for the district include infrastructure improvements for both Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Ninth Street, with a focus on increasing pedestrian connectivity and bikeability. The development team proposes to keep Southwest Second Avenue as a main thoroughfare, with enhancements for pedestrians (such as more crosswalks and strategic lighting), as well as improved retail and restaurant options. The Ninth Street plan is to redevelop the portion as a pedestrian-only street, which will include public access to a “pocket park” or urban green space area, and to encourage outdoor connectivity and community activities.

Nearly a year of collaborative research, discussion, and planning went into this newly approved joint master development venture, but the vision for the district was born about 15 years ago. When the Alachua General Hospital was first decommissioned, it was the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, the City of Gainesville, and UF that began brainstorming future uses for the land.

“The idea was that an urban district centered around innovation, collaboration between the university and corporations, and pioneering research and technological advancement, would be the highest and best use of the area,” said John Fleming, a managing partner for Trimark Properties.

Now the team can help fully realize the Innovation District’s potential.

“The whole concept of innovation districts has undergone tremendous evolution since its inception during the Industrial Revolution,” Crawford said. “Now seen as a hub of advancement designed to leverage collaborations between research-driven academia, technology, corporations, and a diverse community, its mission is to inspire a diverse exchange of ideas geared toward solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

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