Last May, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded St. Louis Economic Development Partnership a $500,000 grant to develop a comprehensive master plan for a 600-acre innovation hub in Creve Coeur, surrounded by agricultural technology institutions such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park and Helix Center Biotech Incubator. The innovation hub will foster opportunities for economic growth and commercialization of next-generation products, all while enhancing the thriving research community the region offers.
“Seventeen years ago, Dr. Danforth dreamed of creating something special and lasting for the benefit of our region that would benefit humankind, create jobs and economic opportunities,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer of the Danforth Center and president of BRDG Park. “This grant will allow us to develop a roadmap for a physical hub that supports ag-tech and other innovation-based industries.”
Representatives from Wexford Science + Technology, the Danforth Center, St. Louis County, the City of Creve Coeur and the Helix Center are serving on the core working group with Ayers Saint Gross, a nationally recognized planning and design firm hired to develop the plan by mid 2016. Ayers Saint Gross has helped create several vibrant innovation districts across the U.S., including the Cortex Innovation District in the Central West End, a mixed-use innovation district in Providence, RI with Wexford Science + Technology and CV Properties LLC and a technology park in Indianapolis, IN with 16 Tech Community Group.
“We look forward to continuing to strengthen the St. Louis innovation ecosystem,” said Kevin Petersen, principal, Ayers Saint Gross. “Through our research and experience, we have concluded that the keys to a successful innovation district are place making and a mix of uses. We accomplish this by creating visions for active environments, including flexible lab and office space, housing, retail, hospitality and community space.”
The planning team is asking the community to get involved in the design of the innovation district. They will use a new social engagement tool called “My Sidewalk” to solicit feedback from residents and business owners.
Currently, more than 750 plant science researchers work in the St. Louis region and the industry provides thousands of jobs. Within the last year, BRDG Park experienced tremendous growth by welcoming powerhouse companies such as Forrest Innovations, Ltd., KWS SAAT AG, and Evogene as tenants. The hub will further compliment this growth by supporting entrepreneurship and collaboration, creating high-paying jobs, increasing investment opportunities and accelerating product time to market.