- Cathy O’Connor
Momentum continues in the Innovation District
The goals of the Innovation District have been clear from the start. This will be a place where innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish, where interaction can happen and ideas can develop, and where people can congregate, collaborate and network to share ideas, leading to new companies, inventions and breakthroughs in technology.
This 1.3-square-mile area will better connect existing economic engines and assets, but where we once had silos of innovation, the Innovation District will create collaboration and synergy for growth. The development of the Innovation District presents an opportunity to stitch together the community fabric, creating a vibrant, active district that benefits surrounding neighborhoods by improving connections to job opportunities, open spaces, services and amenities.
The passing of MAPS 4 was key. Public investment in several important projects will attract and accelerate private development. The Innovation District Land Use and Strategic Development Plan proposes high-intensity development centered around the existing Stiles Circle Park and the Beacon of Hope to include Innovation Hall and a surrounding plaza, which will be the heartbeat of the district. Here, vital connections and collaborations will take place, STEM programming and valuable job training will be offered. The development of this area will include research lab and office space, coworking space, hotel and residential development and retail and restaurant amenities.
The land use plan also calls for the redevelopment of the Henrietta B. Foster Center into a Minority Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center to provide wealth-building opportunities while giving new life to this historically significant building. Connections between all these assets, the surrounding neighborhoods and Automobile Alley are also key projects, including the expansion of the NE 10th Street bridge over I-235 with sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and public art.
So, what’s next? In partnership with the Oklahoma City Innovation District organization and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, we are having conversations and fielding interest from developers, businesses looking to relocate in the next two to six years, research organizations, even artists or gallery managers interesting in showcasing their work. There will be small spaces for service businesses as well as space for large research labs. We look forward to talking with local and national interests about what the Innovation District offers and how that business or organization could add to our innovation ecosystem.