University of Florida Creates a High-Tech Community at its Doorstep
Utilities on Track
For example, the expected 32,000 lineal ft of water, sewer and reclaimed-water line upgrades are incrementally triggered as street improvements are made as a project moves through the approval process. Developers pay for access as their buildings come on line, in addition to a special infrastructure area charge. Fees are assessed based on square footage, rather than projected use.
"We're still taking a risk," Richardson says, "but the development community convinced us that it could be minimized, and that they'd do their part to help fund [the infrastructure improvements]."
Thanks to a combination of public and private funding, Innovation Square is on track to have the first 10 acres of its utilities network done by the end of the year, with the remainder built as demand and opportunities dictate. "The community promised to stay a year ahead of the buildings, so we're right on schedule," Poppell says. All building construction will be privately financed, so vertical improvements on university-owned property will be back on the tax rolls, he adds.
The first building, the 48,000-sq-ft Florida Innovation Hub, or IHub, opened last year. The $13.2-million project is an incubator for technology startups. In addition to offices and laboratories, it houses service providers that offer free advice to startups.
The school has also completed a $2.9-million renovation of a 110,000-sq-ft office building, called Ayers Innovation Plaza. MindTree Ltd., a software engineering and product services company, relocated its U.S. operation to the building. Also, bidding is under way, with an award expected this spring, for the 150,000-sq-ft Infusion Technology Center, a speculative lab and research building.
A greenway, called Innovation Square Park, is on course for completion this year. The space is unifying disparate parks into a greenway linking Innovation Square's facilities and a connection between UF and the city's commercial core.
INSPIREation Hall, a live and learn community tailored for entrepreneurial-minded undergraduate students, is in the planning stage. Other future projects include upscale housing for graduate students and technology workers, facilities for nearby Santa Fe College, a hotel, a grocery store and parking decks.
Even in Gainesville, "the old concept of Research Triangle Park is no more," says John Carlson, president and CEO of the local Charles Perry Partners, which built the IHub. "Now it's all about work and play."