The University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is planning to more than double its footprint, adding space in a proposed 20-story office and laboratory complex designed to support “deep science” ventures.

U. of C. announced plans Wednesday night for the new 270,000 square-foot development, planned as part of the next phase of the Harper Court development project in Hyde Park. The school is working on the project with Baltimore-based real estate company Wexford Science & Technology.

Early plans call for adding 16 stories of new office space on top of an existing four-story parking garage at 53rd Street and South Lake Park Avenue, while also building a new four-to-five story lab building. The two structures will be attached via one “super floor”; the development is also planned to include 15,000 square feet of retail space.

The Polsky Center will take between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet of the final space, and the existing 34,000 square-foot Polsky Exchange will stay open, according to John Flavin, U. of C.’s associate vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Flavin said the proposed development is a “necessary” step to back the cutting-edge science businesses started at the Polsky Exchange — and keep them in Chicago.

“We have a lot of entrepreneurs who are pursing things that involve deep science — like new medical innovations and next-generation batteries — that require unique kinds of spaces, including physical and material science labs and computational-type spaces,” he said. “With this new complex, we’ll continue to attract, retain and build talented companies that are involved in scientific entrepreneurship.”

Although the office-lab complex will largely be focused on “bringing researchers together for the sole purpose of commercialization,” it will also include work space for local entrepreneurs, he said.

The first phase of the Harper Court development project began in 2013 and added more than a dozen new businesses and an estimated 1,320 jobs to the Hyde Park neighborhood, according to University of Chicago officials. The new development plans promise to bring hundreds of temporary construction jobs and more than 600 permanent research, tech and other science-related jobs, U. of C. said.

Flavin said that, if all goes according to plan, construction will likely begin in the first half of 2018 and finish in the early part of 2020. He said it is too early to share an estimated cost.

“At the end of the day, we certainly believe that this will have a very positive economic impact across the broader South Side,” Flavin said. “It’s really an exciting development that meets a very important need in Chicago’s rapidly emerging tech ecosystem.”

U. of C. partnered with Wexford Science & Technology because of its vast experience working with universities, academic medical centers and research companies, he said. The real-estate firm has helped develop a dozen of what it calls “knowledge communities” across the United States, including University Technology Park at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Wexford will be the owner and operator of the new space, Flavin said.


Source: Chicago Tribune by Robert Holly