Technology park could boost area’s biomedical efforts: First phase of Purdue project, featuring accelerator building for up to 25 startups, should be finished this year

The park is expected to be a major amenity for the area’s growing biomedical economic development efforts.

Purdue Research Foundation paid $2.5 million in June to purchase a half-interest in 78 acres at AmeriPlex industrial park. The university ultimately anticipates filling it with as many as 75 businesses and 1,500 jobs.

AmeriPlex owner Holladay Properties, a South Bend developer of industrial parks, owns the other half of the site. Dubbed Purdue Accelerator Park at AmeriPlex-Indianapolis, the project is intended to help companies commercialize research conducted at the university.

“We know that there is capacity for this at Indianapolis,” said Joe Hornett, senior president of the foundation. “We believe it will develop rapidly.”

The first phase and cornerstone of the project is a 55,000-square-foot accelerator that will house 15 to 25 startups, creating roughly 300 jobs. Additional development of the property likely will take five to seven years to complete, Hornett said.

That could include up to 10 so-called technology centers of similar size to the accelerator for its graduates to move into, as well as for established firms interested in locating within the park.

Purdue already has had conversations with two “sizable” companies within the life sciences, information technology or advanced manufacturing sectors the park covets, Hornett said.

In addition, three multitenant office buildings are planned for the front of the park, along Interstate 70, for corporations seeking freeway visibility.

The development also includes a 300-bed, six-story hotel with a 30,000-squarefoot conference center, and about 50,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Purdue has existing research parks in West Lafayette, Merrillville in northwest Indiana, and New Albany near Louisville. The Indianapolis location will emulate the mixed-use development in Merrillville, another partnership between Purdue and Holladay Properties.

At nearly 260,000 square feet, and home to more than 140 companies, the Purdue park in West Lafayette is the state’s largest business incubator. While it has been operating since 1963, the one in Merrillville has been open just three years. The New Albany project is expected to launch in the fall.

“[Purdue] took the step of taking the concept outside of West Lafayette, and now [it’s] coming down to the heart of where these New Economy businesses are, in central Indiana,” said Doug Hunt, Hol- laday Properties’ senior vice president of development. “It truly gives them a place to plant their flag in Indianapolis.”

Indeed, the location’s proximity to the airport midfield terminal, as well as to nearby Hendricks County and its cluster of logistics firms, attracted the university. Hornett is hopeful tenants can establish relationships with companies such as Federal Express, for instance. And, the park is within minutes of downtown Indianapolis.

Lab space critical

The park’s identity initially will hinge on the accelerator, which should be finished no later than December. Locallybased CSO Architects Inc. designed the two-story building where fledgling firms can share resources to foster growth.

The building will sport one large and two small conference rooms, a break room and a common reception area to save tenants from building out that space themselves.

A broad array of traditional office services will be provided, including marketing, human resources and business advisory expertise. Access to startup capital also will be available.

But perhaps most important to biomedical firms and their research is the wet-lab space, which will occupy as much as 50 percent of the building. The lack of local laboratories equipped with fume hoods, sinks and distilled-water sources should make the accelerator an attractive option for early-stage companies conducting research, Hornett said.

To be sure, the Indiana University Emerging Technologies Center on West 10th Street near the Central Canal houses 25 companies in about 44,000 square feet of space. The center has been operating at full capacity the past two years and has a waiting list of four companies. To accommodate them, the center is converting dry labs to three wet ones totaling 1,500 square feet. When finished, wet labs will make up a third of the center.

“The constraint right now is that type of space, so that would be a welcome addition,” said Mark Long, president and CEO of the IU center. “There’s certainly room for more.”

The accelerator is designed with future expansion in mind. A second accelerator can be built with direct enclosed access to the first, said Alan Tucker, a principal at CSO Architects.

“We’ve built buildings for [Purdue] in the past, and they have been ready for expansion in a few years,” he said, “because they have been so successful.”

Future expansion

All told, AmeriPlex has 5 million square feet of rentable space, making it the city’s fifth-largest industrial park, according to IBJ statistics. Its tenants include PepsiCo, Allison Transmission and Allstate Insurance.

The 80 acres upon which the technology park will be built are within a 400-acre area of AmeriPlex that Holladay Properties likely will develop as well. The developer has a variety of plans for the remaining 320 acres, Hunt said. Those plans could include Purdue.

Both entities agree the logical use for the acreage would be for growing companies spawned from the accelerator that someday might want to build their own headquarters. The object, of course, is to keep them from leaving the city.

If the growth of the Merrillville park is any indication, an expansion in Indianapolis would seem likely. Since opening in 2005, the northwest Indiana location has attracted 16 companies, putting it two years ahead of schedule, Hornett said.

For Holladay Properties, the chance to partner with Purdue at its AmeriPlex park in Indianapolis presents another opportunity. Purdue and Holladay are coordinating the project with Indianapolis and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

“Who knows where the next great product or invention will come from in the world?” Hunt said. “But the odds are, some of them will come out of this park.”

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