On Aug. 18, Tech and the Trammell Crow Company (TCC) finally broke ground on the upcoming Science Square project (formerly Technology Enterprise Park) in an effort to revitalize the south side of campus and promote biomedical research and innovation in Atlanta.
This past spring, Tech announced its partnership with TCC, a commercial real estate developer, to construct a community including commercial lab space, residential areas and retail opportunities.
Similar to Tech Square, this project will seek to revitalize a small area of Atlanta and encourage a new industry to take root next to campus.
“Historically, Atlanta hasn’t enjoyed the same success with startups in the life sciences as we have with other tech sectors,” said President Ángel Cabrera in an Institute press release covering the groundbreaking.
“Atlanta hasn’t been able to provide the rich, dense biomedical innovation ecosystem that biotech entrepreneurs need to attract talent and develop their ideas into marketable solutions,” he said.
While the first phase of the project will be delivered in early 2024, Tech has already tied academia and companies to the new project. These include the Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering, Abbott, Inc. and Kemira, among others.
The GATV Innovation Labs will also launch with Science Square and will help science and biotechnology start-ups grow.
One part of this first phase is the proposed Science Square Labs, a 13-story tower designed for laboratory spaces.
On the ground floor of this building will be retail areas and various amenities, while other levels will include lab spaces. Science Square Labs will also include speculative labs and office spaces for fledgling life science companies.
In addition to the laboratory building, a 14-story residential building will also be constructed with various apartment spaces and amenities.
This section of the project will also include affordable housing initiatives and the entire area is designed to be walkable.
As described in an Institute press release, “Science Square will be built on the south side of Georgia Tech’s campus and in a part of our city that has been traditionally left out of development and investment.”
The 18-acre site bordering the existing North Avenue Research Area is designated as a Federal Opportunity Zone, which is defined by the IRS as “an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.”
Beginning with designations in 2018, these zones are meant to spur economic growth in certain low-income communities by enticing external investors to develop projects in them.
Although these designations are supposed to help their communities, previous research has found they can sometimes produce opposite effects.
A 2019 study by the Tax Foundation reported that “place-based incentive programs redistribute rather than generate economic activity… and displace low-income residents by increasing property values and encouraging higher skilled workers to relocate to the area.”
An Opportunity Zone designation makes areas like the Science Square site lucrative for investors but potentially harmful for current residents and workers.
Tech and TCC will reap the benefits of this designation but are taking extra steps to prevent displacement of current members of the community. TCC will provide a $500,000 Community Educational Grant dedicated to train students and local residents to work in the environments provided by Science Square.
This initiative will support life sciences education in high schools and fund scholarships and trainings for local residents to participate in those industries.
Tech credits the project’s development to the support from its private partnerships, like with TCC and the University System of Georgia.
Chancellor Sonny Perdue was also present at the groundbreaking ceremony and spoke on the significance of Science Square.
“This highlights a central focus for the entire University System of Georgia and that is our commitment to maintaining and enhancing the connection between world-class public colleges and universities and economic success for the state and all Georgians,” Perdue said in a press release from the Institute.
He also mentioned the success of the Tech Square project and how insights gained from that development will be applied to Science Square.
While construction will not begin until 2024, Tech is excited to begin the project and revitalize the district bordering campus throughout the coming years.
Until then, those interested in the project can visit its website at technologyenterprisepark.gatech.edu to take a virtual tour of a proposed lab spaces, along with learning more about the overall project.