While innovation was once dominated by isolated corporate campuses in suburbia such as Silicon Valley and Research Triangle Park, revolutionary companies, emerging talent and entrepreneurs now crave proximity, connectedness and collaboration.
Enter “innovation districts,” a new urban model that calls for buildings and entire districts to be designed to mix institutions, companies, start-ups and schools with walkability, housing and retail. It’s a model that not only appeals to the demands of today’s workforce, but provides more opportunity for creativity and innovation.
In a recent report, The Rise of Innovation Districts, the Brookings Institution notes: “today, innovation is taking place where people come together, not in isolated spaces” and that these districts have “the unique potential to spur productive, inclusive and sustainable economic development.”
Here are just a few innovation districts that are underway in the Charleston region:
Research and Revitalization
Led by the City of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the MUSC Foundation, the Horizon Project Foundation is launching a mixed-use development plan aimed to grow the healthcare/biomedical sector in Charleston. The development includes a 150,000-square-foot office and research building, a building for retail space and multifamily apartments—all of which will be completely walkable and waterfront.
With Charleston Digital Corridor’s (CDC) Flagship3 as its anchor tenant, the Charleston Innovation District will be a high-density, high-tech area on Charleston’s Upper Peninsula. Flagship3 is the third installment of the CDC’s tech incubator hubs in the region. Startups, established tech companies and others will be joining the mixed-use development of housing, retail, cafés and restaurants.
Silicon Harbor Headquarters
Nearby the Charleston Innovation District is yet another mixed-use development: Half Mile North, where earlier this year tech company Blue Acorn moved into a 12,000-square-foot former warehouse and recently announced an expansion into an additional 8,000-square-foot building to accommodate its rapid employee growth. The mixed-use development aims to play headquarters to “Silicon Harbor,” offering parking, bike lanes, bus routes and nearby amenities. Renovations have already begun to repurpose warehouses and small buildings, slated for mid-2016 completion.
Fostering innovation is critical for long-term economic success. By developing and building the infrastructure connectivity (and districts) necessary to promote and support a creative economy, Charleston is growing a globally competitive economy for business, entrepreneurs and talent.