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PETERSON: 16 Tech is rare opportunity for Indianapolis

September 19, 2015

viewpoint-peterson-bartIndianapolis has an exciting and rare opportunity to redevelop an area northwest of downtown along the White River into a thriving hub of innovation. 16 Tech, a proposed technology and life sciences park, would be located along a portion of Indiana Avenue between 10th and 16th streets, just north of the IUPUI campus.

16 Tech is based on a model of urban and economic development that has proven highly successful in other cities around the world. Studied in great length by the Brookings Institution, these “innovation districts” are magnets for talent development and attraction.

A pre-eminent example in the United States is Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between the campuses of Harvard and MIT. Beginning in the 1990s, thanks to a partnership between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, the area was transformed from an abandoned industrial site into the world-renowned home of more than 150 high-tech companies.

Baltimore and St. Louis, working in partnership with their tech and life sciences communities, and the surrounding neighborhoods, are moving at full speed to develop innovation districts.

16 Tech would bring together many of Indianapolis’ existing strengths—our research universities, life sciences expertise and vibrant technology sector—to spark new companies and jobs. It would also attract innovative minds and investments to Indianapolis from around the globe.

The anchor tenant of 16 Tech would be the new Indiana Biosciences Research Institute–a unique research center funded with private, not-for-profit and state support. It would enable Indiana’s leading bioscience companies to collaborate with one another, as well as with academic researchers and the world’s leading scientific minds, on cutting-edge research projects focused on health concerns common to many Hoosiers, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Indianapolis and Indiana have shown the world we are capable of developing a world-class life sciences sector. At the same time, the burgeoning central Indiana technology community has developed well beyond the expectations of many.

Combining those two sectors—along with the significant engineering and advanced manufacturing innovation throughout the region—in a unique community will enhance Indianapolis’ ability to be globally competitive. This could be one of the most important economic development opportunities for our city in decades.

Equally important is the opportunity for the surrounding neighborhoods to benefit from 16 Tech. A portion of the revenue produced by the park would go into a community investment fund to enhance quality of life. In addition, the development would include green spaces, public art, and walking and bike trails along the White River.

Indianapolis is already one of the most livable cities in America, and these improvements would make it an even more inviting spot for would-be entrepreneurs and job-seekers.

With an opportunity like this, a sense of urgency is essential. Other states and cities are investing public and private dollars to lure technology and innovation-based companies. Fierce competition for growth industries and talent is a fact of life in the 21st-century economy.

With the development of 16 Tech, Indianapolis will advance several steps on the ladder toward being a globally important center for life sciences and technology businesses. It will provide growth and jobs for our community, important enhancements for our neighborhoods, and help attract top talent from around the world.•

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Peterson, mayor of Indianapolis from 2000 through 2007, is the senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Eli Lilly and Co.

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