Research Triangle Park is home to tech giants such as IBM, Cisco, and Netapp, but competition from local office parks like NC State’s Centennial Campus and Pittsboro’s newly developing Chatham Park, is serving as a wake-up call for the community. To stay ahead of the game, the Research Triangle Foundation is giving the park a $2 billion makeover, with retail, restaurants, residential attractions, and up to 100,000 new jobs.
The first step of the project involves “Park Center,” the 100-acre parcel near I-40 RTF that was recently purchased for $17 million. Bob Geolas, CEO of the nonprofit management agency for RTP, says Park Center can bring in up to 100,000 jobs – nearly three times the park’s current work force of 39,000. Though building height will be limited due to its proximity to RDU airport, Park Center is large enough for 6 million square-feet of office, retail, residential, and restaurant space.
Transportation is the big limiting factor, with standstill traffic as a possible recurring headache for commuters. Funds have already been put toward a possible commuter rail project from Durham to Garner , but Wake County has yet set a date for a referendum.
Geolas says to expect a centerpiece structure to brand RTP, much like the Eiffel Tower brands Paris. The proximity to I-40 will allow visibility and transform Park Center from just a building to a city landmark.
The structure will also house labs that bring universities and private entities together, including incubator space for the growing number of Triangle entrepreneurs. “We’d very much like to see it happen,” said Andy Schwab, manager of First Flight Ventures, a facility that houses startups. “There needs to be a variety of space available. Companies don’t develop at the same rates. I think it can be a good focal point for the region.”
Joel Marcus, CEO of the life science developer Alexandria Real Estate, is bringing something “big, bold, and very high profile” to RTP – The Alexandria Center for Science and Technology. Alexandria Real Estate Equities purchased the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences 140,000-square-foot building in 2012 for $20 million, and though specifics have not been released, Marcus has stated that startups will have a place in the project. “We see it as part of the larger innovation district for redevelopment in the park,” said Geolas.