In 2002, Washington University, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri, BJC Healthcare, and the Missouri Botanical Garden joined forces to transform 240 acres of midtown St. Louis, Missouri into a nationally and internationally acclaimed technology and innovation center. Cortex is an acronym for Center of Research, Technology and Entrepreneurial Exchange. The district is roughly bordered by Forest Park and Highway 1-64 to the north and south. Formerly an industrial area, Cortex is optimally positioned to tie together the medical research centers located in Central West End, Saint Louis University, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The Cortex project is currently in its second phase of a projected twenty-five year master plan. The first phase consisted mainly of leveling and clearing the development site and generating interest from private investors. It also saw the construction of Solae Headquarters, West End Lofts, CET (Center for Emerging Technology) and Cortex I. Solae (now DuPont), an international soy ingredient producer that was formerly located in downtown St. Louis, moved around 400 employees to serve as an anchor at Cortex. The new 1,600,000 square-foot building will house research and development, corporate offices, and manufacturing facilities for the company as it grosses over $1 billion in annual revenue. Cortex I, located at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and South Boyle Avenue, is now fully occupied and houses Cortex operations. The full list of resident companies can be viewed on the Cortex Innovation Community website.
Phase two will involve connecting bioscience and technology, as well as businesses and academic institutions. This was kicked off by the conversion of a former telephone factory at 4240 Duncan Avenue into an office and laboratory space, aptly renamed @4240. The building is now at ninety percent occupancy, housing 457 workers and sixty five companies including Boeing accelerator program.
Last year, Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) opened up its first location outside of Cambridge in the @4240 building. Started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it serves as a headquarters and offers management services for start-ups and incubators. Having landed CIC as a tenant demonstrates that the city of St. Louis is gaining national and international buzz surrounding technology, innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship. As the community is gaining attention, the vision is still too young to predict if Cortex will be an urban planning success. Since 2002, Cortex has completed 1 million square feet of new and rehabilitated space totaling $350 million of investment and generating 2,500 technology-related jobs.
Do you think it is possible to create a successful technology and innovation hub in a former industrial area? Is there a technology and innovation hub in your city and is it successful? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Lindsay Naughton.