Article by Richard Mize for The Oklahoman
Aviation, aerospace, bioscience and energy research and development are planned for a mixed-use project “focused on collaborative innovation” — in Oklahoma City’s Innovation District — recently revealed by two of the city’s leading developers, Gardner Tanenbaum and Robinson Park Investments.
Richard Tanenbaum, CEO of Gardner Tanenbaum, and Mark Beffort, CEO of Robinson Park Investments, said they closed on the purchase of 2.7 acres near NE 8 and Interstate 235 Tuesday morning. More than 400,000 square feet of facilities in two buildings will feature shared technology for 3D imaging and printing, in addition to biomedical work. A key feature of the high-density project is the proposed MAPS 4-funded Innovation Hall.
“In OKC we’re no stranger to big ambition. We’re honored to work alongside our city leaders to build on OKC’s reputation as a front runner in national innovation. The foundation of this project is inclusion, diversity, growth, and opportunity for all Oklahomans,” Beffort said. Its proximity to University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University research centers will foster inter-university collaboration, he said.
The pedestrian-oriented layout, designed by FSB Architects, will include research labs and office space, a hotel, retail space, and “a public realm providing an open-air community environment,” the developers said in a press release.
“FSB is honored to celebrate this historic announcement today for Oklahoma City’s emerging Innovation District,” said Ryan Dawson, FSB associate principal. “This world-class showcase for innovation is an economic win for OKC that will further enhance collaboration between industries, academia, business and public sectors.”
The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation support the project, which will have Wheeler Labs, the first portfolio company of Echo Investment Capital’s venture capital fund in biotech, as the anchor tenant. Wheeler Labs is a clinical laboratory developing “high-complexity diagnostic services.”
“The University of Oklahoma is thrilled to be the educational partner for this transformative expansion in the Innovation District,” OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. said in the press release. “The project affords tremendous opportunity for OU to further grow our life-changing research in the areas of biotechnology, aerospace and defense, advanced manufacturing and more.”
Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, said: “Oklahoma City has been building momentum in the biotechnology arena, and this project represents an important step forward as we seek to create collaboration between this and other emerging technology sectors in our city.
“With OMRF’s track record of successfully spinning off start-up companies, we recognize a great opportunity when we see one. This new space will catalyze cross-pollination and innovation, as well as fuel the development of top-notch researchers and scientists in our community. We’re excited to join in this effort and follow the new paths it blazes.”
Christian Kanady, founder of Echo Investment Capital, said the development is a perfect spot for Wheeler Labs.
“When Wheeler Labs was offered a position as an anchor tenant we committed on the spot,” Kanady said. “Uniting the health science corridor with downtown is exactly what our community needs. We can offer a compelling proposition to pharma and healthcare companies by offering the highest quality, lowest cost pathways to discover new medicine. We’ve yet to speak with an investor, scientist, or venture capitalist who’s not interested in collaboration once they’ve heard the story.”
And it’s a great project to locate in the Innovation District, which is projected to generate more than 6,000 jobs over the next three to five years, said Katy Evans Boren, Innovation District CEO. The Innovation District comprises 1.3 square miles east of downtown.
“The Innovation District is designed to be an epicenter for collaboration, innovation, opportunity, andeconomic growth,” she said. “We convene divergent industries to create opportunities for next-level innovation. Researchers, entrepreneurs and big thinkers all converge here in a collaborative environment. This state-of-the-art development will position our city as a leading competitor for new companies, jobs and talent in a global economy.”
Tanenbaum said the project will usher in “a new era” for Oklahoma City.
“Researchers, engineers, universities and industry leaders are pioneering Oklahoma-born advances in bioscience, aerospace, energy and health. We’ve matched that trailblazing spirit to develop, design, and build the environment for technological collaboration,” Tanenbaum said. “We’ve established the equivalent of a high-performance sports team, and the MVP’s are front and center.
“I’m proud to work alongside the partners and supporters of this project to develop a space where innovators can dream in a diverse environment, share ideas across industry boundaries, and cultivate cross-sector relationships. It’s a breeding ground where revolutionary ideas can flourish, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”