Key Takeaways from Successful Innovation Districts
A new, increasingly common urban model is emerging: the creation of innovation districts dedicated to connecting organizations and talent in tech, medicine and creative industries. The innovation districts create an ecosystem for growth by providing space and opportunities for collaboration and development.
As Uptown Consortium, Inc. (UCI) planned and developed Cincinnati’s Uptown Innovation Corridor, we visited peer organizations and innovation districts across the country to study progress and lessons learned. Our goal is to create a framework for developing successful innovation districts, so we’ve compiled a few takeaways from our visits and how we’ve applied them in the Uptown Innovation Corridor.
Economic growth depends on talent
Cities are competing for talent to remain viable in a technology-fueled new economy. According to The Brookings Institution, human capital is among the most important contributors to growth in advanced economies specializing in knowledge-based industries.
For example, Uptown Cincinnati’s talent pool was a key factor for organizations and businesses that have already invested and located in the Upton Innovation Corridor, such as Procter & Gamble, Kroger and CincyTech. Uptown is the most educated area in the region with the anchor institutions employing 52,000 people and continuing to attract additional talent to the area.
Research and planning are key
Successful innovation districts are the result of thoughtful research and long-term planning. Various stakeholders, such as community organizations, anchor institutions and city officials, must be included from the beginning planning stages to ensure the development of a district that benefits and supports everyone. We saw that reflected in Midtown Alliance’s Tech Square and in each innovation district we visited over the past few years.
Research and long-term planning include economic impact studies, market assessments, land use planning, master planning and more. For the Uptown Innovation Corridor, we also developed a steering committee with more than 30 stakeholders and community leaders. With each study and investigation comes foundational planning elements, which cultivate community stakeholder input and approval throughout the development process.
Diversity and inclusion build better innovation districts
To compete in the new tech economy, it’s critical that all stakeholders feel engaged and included. The success of any innovation district depends on integral relationships with the communities in its footprint. It’s critical to engaged community organizations and neighborhood residents from the beginning planning stages through development and beyond to ensure that they have a voice in determining the future of their neighborhood.
In the Uptown Innovation Corridor, UCI set economic inclusion goals with all development partners and enlisted WEB Ventures, an economic inclusion consultant, to assist in its economic inclusion efforts.
Balancing research and innovation with amenities
Successful innovation districts include a balance of lifestyle amenities. These include green space and public spaces that provide opportunities for enrichment and collaboration among tenants and community members as well as restaurants and other services.
In the Uptown Innovation Corridor, UCI and its partners have planned mixed-use developments bringing green space, retail, office and residential development along with below-ground parking.
We’re hopeful these takeaways from successful innovation districts across the country can provide a guide for the growth and development of other districts. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned as we’ve applied best practices to Uptown Innovation Corridor.
Beth Robinson is the President and CEO of the Uptown Consortium, a nonprofit community development corporation dedicated to the economic development of Uptown Cincinnati. To learn more about the Uptown Innovation Corridor, visit www.uptowncincinnati.com.
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