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$14.5m innovation campus coming to Downtown Topeka

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 11:17 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - GO Topeka announced Thursday morning to create a 60,000 sq. foot innovation center entrepreneurial hub in downtown Topeka with their BioRealty, Inc. partners.

Greater Topeka Partnership is creating The ASTRA (Animal Science, Technology, Research, and Agriculture) Innovation Center at the former Wolfe’s camera shop and two adjacent buildings.

GTP said it’ll cost more than $14 million to build the campus spanning a couple of blocks in downtown Topeka.

GTP Senior VP of Innovation Katrin Bridges said it’s not just for companies from out of town.

“This is going to be the home for startups and entrepreneurs from Topeka, from the region, and from the animal health corridor that we’ve heard so much about over the last year or so,” she said.

The innovation center will feature wet labs, work and meeting spaces, office space -- and a rooftop venue for events.

Senator Jerry Moran said GTP is creating opportunities with the idea.

“In my view, we call that the American Dream, and when someone is pursuing the American dream and they’re successful, they opportunities others in the American Dream as well,” he said.

He believes having a centralized entrepreneur hub focused on growing companies will help grow the economy.

“If you want more jobs in Kansas, we need more people who want to work and have the skillset and knowledge to work and we need a work ethic,” he said.

GTP already partners with the Plug and Play Company out of California to help their animal health-related accelerator program bring 10-to-20 startup companies to Topeka every six months. Bridges said they’ve been in a virtual format because of COVID-19 for the last year but need to have a space business leaders can come to, and stay.

“In the future, they’re going to be here in person and we want to be able to provide a space that is attractive and that potentially makes those companies stick around,” she said.

This is the largest GO Topeka-sponsored project in more than 10 years.

GO Topeka says BioRealty Inc has also purchased two nearby properties, at 633 and 627 S. Kansas Ave. but tenants have not been announced.

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A California company will be turning several downtown Topeka buildings, including the former Wolfe’s Camera location into a new innovation campus.

GO Topeka announced Thursday morning a partnership with BioRealty Inc., that will bring a multi-block startup and entrepreneurial hub to Downtown Topeka.

The ASTRA (Animal Science, Technology, Research, and Agriculture) Innovation Center will go into the former Wolfe’s building, according to GO Topeka.

The facility will be 60,000 sq/ft anchor to the new ASTRA Innovation District.

GO Topeka says BioRealty Inc has also purchased two nearby properties, at 633 and 627 S. Kansas Ave. but tenants have not been announced.

“The acquisition of the Wolfe’s Camera property by our partner BioRealty to house Topeka’s Innovation Center is the second big milestone in building Topeka into a hub of innovation in the Animal Health Corridor after attracting Plug and Play,” said Katrin Bridges, senior vice president of innovation, GO Topeka. “I am thrilled that Topeka has chosen to fully subscribe to this vision and I know it will pay huge dividends in the future in terms of higher wage jobs, opportunities for local and regional talent and investments in innovative, futureproof companies.”

The project will take advantage of the 20 global startups participating each year in the city’s new Plug an Play Animal Health accelerator program. GO Topeka says the facility will offer “world-class facilities, including wet labs, flexible work and meeting spaces. It will feature office space for business research and innovation, as well as a rooftop venue for events.”

The ASTRA District will be developed as a multi-block startup and entrepreneurial hub in...
The ASTRA District will be developed as a multi-block startup and entrepreneurial hub in Downtown Topeka.(GO Topeka)

This is the largest GO Topeka sponsored project in more than 10 years.

“GO Topeka purchased land at the Kanza Fire Commerce Park in 2009. $1B in capital investment followed, positioning our city to become a leader in supply chain for the Midwest”, said Molly Howey, President of GO Topeka, “The ASTRA Innovation Center has the potential to be equally catalytic. This center will allow GO Topeka the ability to offer incentivized lease space to start ups and reinforce our influence in the animal health and agriculture technology sectors for years to come.”

The center is expected to bring 20-40 full-time jobs have have an annual economic impact of $8.3 million. GO Topeka says the total economic impact over ten years would exceed $1.3 billion.

Wolfe’s Camera announced in May 2021 that they were closing after 97 years in business.

In August, JEDO approved what was then referred to as “Project Platinum,” awarding $60,000 in incentives towards the project.

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