Seattle is home to an emerging innovation district that has changed the paradigm for creative environments. Vulcan, Inc. (the investment company of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft) assembled nearly 50 acres of land north of downtown Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and asked Urban Design Associates to prepare a master plan for the district. The plan recommends street infrastructure and public space improvements to stimulate new investments in the old warehouse district. It includes 9 million square feet of commercial and residential development as well as a biotechnology and biomedical research cluster. New developments include the University of Washington’s medical research campus, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Amazon, Google, and ZymoGenetics. Vulcan is also developing new mixed-income housing, restaurants, retail, and hotels to create a vibrant mix of uses.
West Don Lands, located in the southeast corner of Downtown, is being developed into a new mixed-use precinct that emphasizes urban living. Urban Design Associates prepared the master plan and block plan in a public planning process for Waterfront Toronto, the public advocate and steward of waterfront revitalization. The novel precinct features Corktown Common, a new city park on the Don River that has flood control devices integrated into the landscape to protect the new district. The area includes affordable and market rate housing, university facilities, offices, and street level retail. The West Don Lands was selected as the athlete’s village for the 2015 Pan American Games, accelerating development of the first phase. To follow the timetable and avoid lengthy appeals, developers adhered to the block plan. The result is a tremendous range of architectural creativity that preserves the richness of the master plan.
The mayor of Baltimore led Johns Hopkins and adjacent neighborhood organizations to prepare a master plan that would enable the prestigious university to grow while encouraging the redevelopment of new housing and amenities in the surrounding area. The UDA plan provides for a 2,000,000 square-foot expansion of Johns Hopkins Medical Center research facilities and 1,200 new and rehabilitated residential units. The process produced an unprecedented consensus among the community, the city, and the hospital by clearly defining the edge between the institution and the neighborhoods; the first phase, managed by East Baltimore Development, Inc., benefits both the biotechnology park and adjacent neighborhoods. This creative mix of health care, research, office, retail, housing, and community services will strengthen East Baltimore as a center of innovation.
Currie Barracks is the heart of a new, emerging center in Calgary, Alberta. Today, this cluster features Mount Royal University (home to 40,000 students) and conventional office parks surrounded by low-density neighborhoods. Over time, the plan will redevelop an adjacent military base into a compact, walkable neighborhood consisting of 6,300 residential units, a vibrant retail core, and nearly a million square feet of office, research, and development facilities. These developments will serve to anchor the economies of the district and the university together. Heritage buildings on site have and will continue to serve as institutional and start-up venture incubators, breathing life into the district even before build-out commences. Currie Barracks is connected to downtown via an enhanced, express bus service. It is also linked to the region’s vast open space and trail network through an interpretive multi-use trail system that commemorates the land’s past and celebrates its future. The district is LEED-ND Gold and is expected to begin construction in 2015.
Tampa is the newest of our Innovation Districts. Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, is the major force behind the creation of a new waterfront district along the Garrison Channel in Tampa’s downtown. UDA prepared a vision plan for a new district that will include the USF Health Campus, corporate offices, urban residential, retail, restaurants, hotels, and an expanded waterfront park. The district already has a remarkable mix of public facilities, including a convention center, sports arena, history museum, aquarium, and cruise terminal. The dynamic blend of existing and new uses will combine entertainment, education, research, urban living, shopping, and recreation to create a new center of innovation along Florida’s gulf coast.