The Research Triangle Foundation, a not-for-profit responsible for building the Research Triangle Park back in the 50s, has made a surprise announcement: it’s been buying up several adjacent properties along I-40. And it intends to build.
The parcels purchased, prime real estate, are called Park Center. Acquired for $17 million and totaling nearly 100 acres — this land will become the geographic and figurative heart of RTP’s redevelopment. Featuring RTP’s first area of mixed-use growth, Park Center will be a new way of living and working for one of America’s most important regions of innovation.
This is not just a redevelopment. RTP was funded by a mix of everyday people, and it is, to this day, pledged to a purpose: to serve North Carolina.
“This is an investment in our shared future,” said Bob Geolas, RTF’s President and CEO. “With Park Center, we want to provide the physical space, engaging community and collaborative environment necessary to attract and nurture the new generation of risk-takers and innovators who will carry our state forward in the decades ahead.”
The Park Center project is bounded by I-40, Davis Drive, N.C. 54 and N.C. 147. The Governor’s Inn and more than a dozen outdated, hulking office buildings on the property, most of which have stood vacant for years, will be razed in the months ahead. The Foundation will work closely with Research Triangle High School, a two-year-old charter school currently operating in converted retail space on one of the acquired parcels, to identify a location for new space for the school within the redevelopment plan.
The proposed mixed-use project is a first for the Foundation, which was created in 1959 as the steward of the Research Triangle Park. Although the Park was the brainchild of former Gov. Luther Hodges, the Foundation is a not-for-profit organization. Archie Davis, the Foundation’s first president, traveled the state raising money from donors big and small with a dream of lifting the state out of its economic mire. The Park has been developed based on an historic partnership. The state provides funding to support our universities, infrastructure, and economic development. The Foundation operates and manages the Park as a private entity with a strong public purpose. RTP remains the only research park in the nation to operate without public funds.
The Park’s mission is simple but revolutionary: to support education, to create knowledge-based jobs for the people of North Carolina and to improve the quality of life across the state. Geolas and the Foundation’s board envision the Park Center redevelopment as embodying that mission. The project will boast a vibrant mix of residential, cafes, restaurants and retail. But this is not just another mixed use development plan. Park Center will be a showcase for new technologies as well as the humanities and a venue for education, entertainment and ingenuity.
“Our founders took a lot of risks in creating the RTP,” said Geolas. “It was their vision, and their generosity of spirit, that brought together business with our universities, that took our state from 49th in the nation to becoming a global leader in life science and technology.”
At its founding, RTP was the largest research park in the world, and quickly became an economic engine for the state. Today it remains the largest research park in North America, known around the globe for such multi-national companies as IBM, Cisco, Cree, Syngenta, RTI, Fidelity Investments, BASF, Biogen IDEC, GlaxoSmithKline, United Therapeutics and Bayer CropScience.
“What we are seeing is a new generation of thinkers and innovators emerge in RTP,” said Geolas. “With Park Center, we will provide the physical space, and collaborative environment needed to support the risk-takers who will carry our state forward to a new future.”