JEDO approves funding for downtown innovation campus

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 7:20 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A new innovation campus is being created in Downtown Topeka, with a boost from economic development sales tax dollars.

The Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) board voted Wednesday night to approve up to $5.87 million toward developing the district. The money would be allocated over the next nine years.

“I remember one point in time saying that I think Topeka can be the next Silicon Valley, and I was looked upon like I was crazy, obviously I didn’t make it happen, Katrin and the team did but look at where we’re at today,” said Mayor Michelle De La Isla at the meeting. “Mark this day in your calendar, look 10 years from now, and look at what’s happening because I think it’s going to be transformational.”

GO Topeka is partnering with developers BioRealty, Inc. on the $13 million project. An exact location is yet to be determined.

“This is an exciting new step in securing Topeka’s status as a hub of innovation in the Midwest,” Katrin Bridges, GO Topeka’s senior vice president of innovation, said. “This campus will serve as an anchor of a new and vibrant innovation district in downtown Topeka. I am confident it will ignite catalytic growth in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

According to a news release, the innovation campus will cover 60,000 to 70,000 square feet. It will include “wet labs, co-working and meeting spaces; and office space for launching business research and innovation; as well as rooftop space for events.”

County Commissioner Kevin Cook said it’ll be beneficial to bring in start-up businesses and organizations looking to grow, then retaining them to stay in the city and help it grow.

“We’re going to look back at this meeting and really see this laid the groundwork for the future,” he said. “The idea of having a campus available, to have an incubator for businesses to get them up, get them started, the proposed economic impact is in the billions with a “b” which is really a big deal for our community.”

GO Topeka said it’s expected to create 20 to 40 full-time jobs, with an annual economic impact of $8.3 million.

“This will be an excellent addition to our community,” Rhiannon Friedman, president of Downtown Topeka, Inc., said. “The innovation campus will serve as an important asset as DTI works to attract new businesses, development, and retail to our downtown core. BioRealty and GO Topeka’s vision for this project is a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of our downtown.”

Katrin said it means Topeka can build a reputation of success as it plays where innovators connect and grow.

“It will be the place that comes to mind when people think about and speaks about the animal health industry. It will be the partner that facilitates new ways of collaboration across the region, across Kansas and the Midwest.”

De La Isla added that it’s a historic day for the city.

“Not only do we have Plug and Play in Shawnee County and Topeka and the fact that we’re looking at not only the dream of having them here but also planting ground for the innovation center, is nothing short of formidable.”

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