Georgia Tech’s vision of an 18-acre innovation district for medical and technology startups is beginning to become a reality.
The research university and its development partners held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning to christen Science Square, a long-planned development that aims to bolster Atlanta’s biotech sector. The project, which was formerly known as Technology Enterprise Park, will consist of five phases and will eventually include more than 2.3 million square feet of lab and office space spread across five buildings.
The project is a medical technology counterpart to Georgia Tech’s famed Tech Square development in Midtown, which has spurred billions in spin off development from corporations clamoring to locate next to one of the nation’s top research institutions.
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is currently the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, said the $1 billion project will make Atlanta nationally competitive as a science incubator hub. He said it’ll help keep more Georgia entrepreneurs from leaving the Peach State after graduation.
“That’s our goal here, proving a space where they can built it here and stay here for the economic prosperity of our citizens,” Perdue said.
Developer Trammell Crow said the project’s first phase will include nearly 365,000 square feet of lab and office space across a 13-story building called Science Square Labs. So far, Chicago-based Portal Innovations is the only named tenant. The life science venture capital firm will lease out incubator space to start-ups.
“You can’t do chemistry and biology in your bathtub at your home or in your garage,” John Flavin, the company’s founder and CEO, said. “Laboratory space is a critical.”
The massive site is located along North Avenue and Northside Drive, abutting the English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods. The area falls within an federal Opportunity Zone, an area that provides tax credits for development projects in low-income neighborhoods. The Development Authority of Fulton County also approved up to $29.4 million in property tax breaks for the development.
DAFC stipulated that Trammell Crow and Georgia Tech must return to the authority for final consideration of each of five planned phases in case market conditions change and incentives are no longer needed, rather than one final vote for the full incentive package.
Trammell Crow representatives said the first phase is a $360 million investment with about $10 million in infrastructure costs, which includes a new pedestrian bridge to connect the west Atlanta neighborhoods to Georgia Tech.
Trammell Crow also promised $500,000 per lab building, or $2.5 million across all five phases, to support education efforts in surrounding communities to help nearby residents gain skills to work in the life sciences industry. The entire project is expected to create about 500 jobs.
“The investments that have been made on this side of the street are definitely spilling over to the other side of the street,” said Councilman Byron Amos, who represents English Avenue and Vine City.
Science Square is not the first real estate collaboration between Georgia Tech and the private sector. In Midtown, Georgia Tech developed a multi-phased project that included a hotel and conference center, a tech incubator, a new business school complex and retail and restaurants known as Tech Square.
In 2019, Georgia Tech and developer Portman opened Coda, a glitzy technology and research tower that includes corporate tenants like Keysight Technologies.
Tech’s investment in Midtown attracted major corporations, including NCR and Anthem and Norfolk Southern, to build major office complexes to tap into the research university’s faculty and student talent.
The Science Square developers are hoping to tap into the same mojo. They’ve said companies are clamoring for high-grade, move-in-ready lab space that Atlanta lacks.
Phase one also includes a 14-story residential tower with 280 units, which will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Twenty-eight of those apartments will be reserved for residents earning 60% of the area median income, which is $40,500 for an individual. The first units are expected to be open for renters in early 2024.
The residential building will have ground-floor retail space, and both buildings will share a parking garage that will feature a 38,000-square-foot solar panel array on its roof.
The full project buildout, which is projected to take more than a decade, will include 400 apartments and 100,000 square feet of retail space in addition to vast amount of lab space.