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Out With The New, In With the Old: “Innovation Hubs” and “Creative Cores” Cropping Up Around Building Restorations

Posted On March 31, 2014

Old and newMillennials all over the country are migrating to downtowns and urban spaces, even in Scottsdale, Ariz., despite the dereliction of its urban core. New downtown development aims to transform the area around SkySong into an innovation hub to draw more millennials, who will make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. The Scottsdale project is part of a national trend to develop innovation hubs or creative cores, many in secondary markets, in a bid to accelerate urban renewal.

The mixed-use project SkySong — featuring Class A office space, retail, a hotel and conference center, and multifamily residential units — was intended to reverse downtown blight by attracting both startups and Fortune 500 companies, plus a talented labor pool. SkySong’s iconic 120-foot-tall tensile shade structure is meant to demarcate a vibrant civic space while reflecting and fostering innovation and creativity.

But SkySong is still surrounded by “a wasteland of blight” that “must disappear or reinvent itself” and may soon do so, according to a Feb. 11 Phoenix Business Journal article “How ASU’s SkySong is (finally) building a creative urban core.” Standing by itself for six years, failing to attract other brave investors, SkySong is finally going to be joined by some startup projects. Slated to open this summer, the Creative Center of Scottsdale, like many other projects of its type, is housed in a restored downtown landmark.

As the Phoenix Business Journal stated, “It’s difficult to feel like you are an innovator in a sterile, new environment, but restorations seem to encourage entrepreneurship and startups. First of all, restoration of an existing space is itself a form of entrepreneurship; it takes vision, creativity, tenacity and execution.”

Obviously, new construction need not be sterile and uninspiring. But reimagining existing buildings seems to be integral to the creative core concept.

A partnership in Nashville plans to expand an industrial building it bought near downtown to nearly 19,000 square feet to create a hub for music, technology and creative companies. The office space will include “hangout areas” and espresso bars for employees.

And in downtown Tacoma, Wash., local investors have joined forces to transform three adjacent properties currently used to store city trucks and supplies into an arts and small business hub, complete with a multifamily housing complex.

 

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