Placemaking at Purdue University
March 27, 2019
“Not All Opportunity Zones are Created Equal”
In an effort to boost private investment in economically distressed areas, Congress included in its 2017 tax bill incentives for investments in so-called “Opportunity Zones.” Since then, America’s governors have identified 8,700 qualifying areas in urban and rural communities in all 50 states.
While all of those zones were authorized by the same language, some investors have found that not all Opportunity Zones are created equal. Most notably, they find that those located in college towns – with their proximity to deep talent pools, research facilities and more – carry advantages seldom found anywhere else.
And that means that West Lafayette, with two designated Opportunity Zones affiliated with Purdue University, holds unparalleled promise.
Nationally, the Brookings Institute(1) has identified 30 college towns that have been designated as Opportunity Zones. While each of those towns is unique, they all deliver similar benefits to local economies: They provide educated and trained workers. They offer collaboration opportunities and research facilities. They attract essential services and amenities. And they boost local economic vitality.
Owned by the Purdue Research Foundation, Purdue’s two Opportunity Zones certainly meet those criteria. One offers nearly 100 acres of opportunity near the Kurz Purdue Technology Center (five minutes north of the university), and the other offers 50 acres on campus. The smaller tract, a part of Discovery Park District, offers a great example of how these zones can transform a community.
Already home to several research centers focused on drug discovery, bio-agroscience, autonomous mobility, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing, Discovery Park District was the launch pad for more than 50 start-ups in 2017 alone, and it is poised to drive substantially more place-making investments over the next 10 years.
The Purdue Research Foundation and the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette already are investing in this future and are making infrastructure improvements that will support the integration of autonomous mobility platforms, sustainable energy technologies and digital tools. In total, the Discovery Park District master plan calls for more than $1 billion in new investment, including:
- student, multi-family and individual housing
- professional office and co-working spaces
- additional research and incubation centers
- hotel and conference center space
- village retail and community spaces.
The Discovery Park District vision also includes the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, a 140,000-square-foot professional office facility currently under construction. When open in January 2020, Convergence will allow companies to establish their own place to engage with students and faculty on a year-round basis. From custom buildout of office space to dedicated work places within a co-working operation to event and training rooms, the building will offer a mix of potential spaces and business services to tenants of Convergence. Tenants at Convergence will have the opportunity to plant their flag and tailor recruitment and engagement activities to develop a pipeline of talent for the future.
Purdue Discovery Park gives investors access to multiple business-formation opportunities, including start-ups based on Purdue intellectual property as well as new ventures associated with “smart community” drivers such as high-speed-technology providers and sustainable energy systems.
Discovery Park District offers new infrastructure and shovel-ready locations, to successfully address critical timing issues for Opportunity Zone investors.
Investors and businesses already are recognizing the value of the Discovery Park District opportunities. Rolls Royce has located a research testing center for advanced engine technology there, and Pullman, WA-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories chose Discovery Park District for a research center and business unit that could employ up to 300 people. In October 2018, Ford-X chose Purdue as a test-bed for its new “last mile” mobility platform – Spin Scooters – prior to acquiring the company in November.
If, as Brookings suggests, the simple presence of Opportunity Zones in college towns results in more opportunity than traditional real estate development projects, then the Opportunity Zones at Purdue University truly deliver powerful promise. Not only do they provide access to world-class students and faculty, leading-edge research capabilities and a deep pool of collaborators, but they also offer a bold vision for place-making and a community that is fully invested and focused on success … providing solid proof that not all Opportunity Zones are created equal.
To learn more about opportunities at Discovery Park District, contact:
- Adam Chavers
Chief Development Officer, Browning Investments
- Jeremy Slater
Director, Discovery Park District
Download a flyer about the Opportunity Zones at Purdue University
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