05/18/2013 (12:58 pm)
Less than five months after receiving a critical public incentive, the latest expansion of the CORTEX bioscience district is taking shape.
Conversion of a former telephone factory as laboratories and research space won’t be done until late this year, but the district already has snagged a big-name tenant able to attract the kind of high-tech startups that the region’s economic developers covet.
Cambridge Innovation Center, one of the nation’s leading business incubators, will occupy 30,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the 1940s phone factory, at 4240 Duncan Avenue, which is undergoing a $73 million conversion as labs and research space.
CIC’s CORTEX project, initially disclosed Wednesday, will be its first outside its home in Cambridge, Mass.
Dougan Sherwood, a CIC director, said St. Louis “has all the underpinnings of a really strong innovation ecosystem.” He said his company hopes to house at the Duncan Avenue building as many as 100 startups in a variety of fields.
The region’s universities and medical research facilities helped draw CIC, Sherwood added. Also playing a role was the CORTEX plan to develop its nearly 200-acre district as a lively, 24-hour Central West End neighborhood with thousands of workers and residents. A capper for CIC was attractive space at the former factory, he said.
“We’re building this thing in the heart of the science community in St. Louis,” Sherwood added.
Work on the building, just renamed @4240, began this spring after the St. Louis Tax Increment Financing Commission granted CORTEX nearly $168 million in public aid to help grow the technology district.
TIF commissioners voted in December to approve CORTEX’s request for assistance in its $2 billion plan to transform its 187-acre Central West End district over the next two decades.
CORTEX’s goal is to turn the area of old warehouses and factories into a hub for technology and medical research.
Dennis Lower, CORTEX’s president and chief executive, has said the district will use $8 million to $10 million in TIF money on four current projects no fax payday loans.
Those four, which have a combined value of $186 million, are an office building for BJC HealthCare, an orthopedic center by Shriners Hospital for Children and a park along Boyle Avenue, in addition to the Duncan Avenue project.
BJC has completed the shell of its five-story building at CORTEX and work will begin soon on the park, called CORTEX Commons. Sitework is underway on the Shriners project.
Wexford Science & Technology, a Baltimore-based developer of research centers, owns the 183,000-square-foot @4240 building. Tarlton Corp. is the general contractor on the building.
In addition to CIC, @4240’s other main tenant so far will be Washington University’s Offices of Technology Management and Research Administration.
CORTEX, a nonprofit joint venture by area universities, BJC and the Missouri Botanical Garden, already houses the BioGenerator and the Center for Emerging Technologies — home to dozens of tech startups. The partnership with Wexford is intended to attract more young companies looking for high-quality space.
Future CORTEX phases could stretch to Vandeventer Avenue, with more offices, a retail center, housing and two small hotels.
During a tour for the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, Peter Boldt, Tarlton’s superintendent on the project, expressed admiration for workers who in 1948 completed the Art Moderne-style brick and reinforced concrete structure designed and built by the Austin Co. of Cleveland.
He pointed out aspects of the building’s rock-solid construction and the precision placement of electrical boxes that workers had embedded in concrete ceilings.
“They did this right,” Boldt said.
Decades later, workers have sawed through some of those ceilings to produce 40-foot cutouts that allow daylight to penetrate the structure from beneath new skylights. Architects from HOK of St. Louis designed the renovation.
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