Room for Growth
Recent months have brought exciting headlines for St. Louis’ business and technology scene. Two local innovation communities are expanding, attracting important tenants and finding new ways to contribute to the city’s tech footprint with office space, communal resources and auxiliary services.
Major additions are afoot for the Cortex bioscience and technology business community just west of Saint Louis University. In March, Microsoft announced plans for a new regional headquarters and Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) at Cortex’s 200-acre ‘innovation district’ along Forest Park Avenue. It’s an exciting development for the entire region, says Phyllis Ellison, Cortex director of entrepreneur services and institutional/corporate partnerships. About 150 Microsoft employees will work at the location. Ellison says the project is an important move for Microsoft’s local offices and St. Louis MTC, currently located at CityPlace. The MTC offers services to help other businesses ‘go digital.’
The Microsoft project will be part of Cortex’s $170 million third phase of expansion, which encompasses a mixed-use development with other new office and laboratory facilities, plus retail, hotel, dining and event space. The site is between Sarah Street and Boyle Avenue, near the IKEA retail campus. “The new office space, hotel and a new MetroLink station are expected to break ground in mid-2017 and open in 2018,” Ellison says. The new office facility will total about 180,000 square feet.
A 150-room Aloft Hotel by Starwood (rendering shown above) will feature bar and restaurant space, and the new office building will offer dining as well, Ellison says. Michael and Tara Gallina’s much-heralded fine dining restaurant, Vicia, just opened in the campus’ TechShop building on Forest Park Avenue. And other companies such as Alcami, a pharmaceutical development firm, will occupy large chunks of office and lab space. “It all will add to our ‘live-work-play-learn’ environment,” Ellison notes.
Cortex recently named Hank Webber to succeed John Dubinsky as its board chairman. Webber is executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University. Cortex is a master developer of office, lab, residential and retail space centered around life science and technology companies.
Meanwhile, the T-REX technology incubator in downtown St. Louis is in growth mode, too. It’s undergoing an $8 million capital campaign to outfit more office space so additional startups can move in, says Kathleen Bauer, community director. T-REX is located in Washington Avenue’s historic Lammert Building, built in the 1890s and retrofitted to accommodate high-tech tenants.
Bauer says new funding is being raised from private and corporate donors and will allow T-REX to do some interior demolition and build out currently unused space. Construction is expected to begin in the next couple months and will include new walls, flooring and electrical work.
T-REX also recently announced it has reached a total of 200 companies working from its 160,000-square-foot facility. They include firms developing healthcare innovations, software, mobile applications and other technologies. “It’s a vibrant mix of companies,” Bauer notes. Nearly one-third are minority-owned, and more than one-fifth are owned by women.
“We want entrepreneurs to come here, collaborate with others, outgrow the space, spin off and create new jobs,” she says of the T-REX business model. The building includes low-cost office rental for early-stage tech companies, coworking space for businesses without offices, and a conference center. Bauer says the incubator is an ideal convergence point for people who rent offices there, home-based entrepreneurs who use the work space, and outside groups that meet in the conference area.
Pictured: Rendering of the proposed interior of Aloft Hotel