CINCINNATI — While COVID-19 slowed down a lot of industries, some construction projects were able to continue on with limited delays. One of those projects is the Cincinnati Innovation Corridor.
The University of Cincinnati is the first tenant in the $2.5 billion, four-quadrant project at Reading Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Avondale. The UC Digital Futures building in the southeast quadrant is expected to be completed by this April.
"We've been very fortunate that the construction has stayed on schedule and we've made good progress during these challenging times," said Beth Robinson, president and CEO of Uptown Consortium, Inc.
"We believe so strongly that the Innovation Corridor in Cincinnati's Innovation District is such an opportunity for companies to be near talent at the University of Cincinnati and near the talent at our health care organizations and researchers that our confidence in our concept never wavered," she said.
Oakley-based Terrex Development & Construction is also constructing and seeking tenants for a second speculative building in the southeast quadrant. It has 180,000 square feet and is expected to be completed this June. Messer Construction is building both structures.
Robinson believes the entire area in Uptown is what will draw companies in the tech, medical and educational arenas to the area. She says companies have continued to show interest in the project over the last two years. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will build a major federal research facility with approximately 300,000 square feet of space on the northwest quadrant.
"They are winding up their design and preparing construction documents," said Robinson. "We hope that we can get that project launched sometime yet this year. It's a large, complex development so it does take time." She said they may need to move to the first quarter of next year depending on how everything goes.
The additional corners for development include a project called The Node which is a mixed use development on the northeast quadrant. Its first phase will have offices, a hotel and retail, developed by MLK Investors. Robinson said they are optimistic that the project could potentially get started later this year.
The southwest quadrant is being developed by Queen City Hills, a minority-owned developer formed in 2018 by local businessmen Ed Rigaud and David Foxx. Their goal is to build a mixed-use development with residential, retail and a tenants with a bio-science and research focus.
"We're hopeful that one could launch this year as well. This could be a very big year for the corridor and we're really excited about that," said Robinson.
An Innovation Greenway will be another element that integrates the space with publicly accessible green space. Robinson said they are still working on more design and planning work. However, the hope is to begin an early phase of that project in 2023.
Robinson said making sure there is pedestrian and biking connectivity within the spaces is important. She said once the first two buildings open on the southeast quadrant, there could be up to 1,400 employees who need pedestrian access.
"We have to make sure we can connect those workers back to our neighborhoods and back to our amenities, such as restaurants," she said.
UCI presented an update on the project to the Avondale Community Council this week. The report included an assessment of how the project is addressing equity and inclusion goals. So far, about 40 percent of construction spending has been with minority and women business enterprises (M/WBE), 31 percent of the workforce has been minority and women.