Making room for drones, construction underway at Uptown Innovation Corridor

UC Digital Futures Building will be first building
Uptown Innovation Corridor Construction.PNG
Posted at 9:27 AM, Jan 10, 2020

CINCINNATI — It appears the Uptown Innovation Corridor will live up to its innovative theme once the first phase of the first corner is completed. Developers are meeting several of the needs of the University of Cincinnati's Digital Futures Building, even if it means including indoor space to fly drones.

“As part of UC’s desire to kind of create volume in terms of some of the spaces and programmed areas of their building, they’ve really wanted to see some two-story lab space,” said Peter Horton, principal of Terrex Development and Construction in Oakley. “Some of those things that they discussed are the automotive lab and the drone lab. But, I think that that’s evolving for UC in terms of how they’re going to actually program the space.”

Terrex is the developer for the first quarter of the project and is also working with Messer Construction. The Uptown Innovation Corridor at Reading Road and Martin Luther King Drive in Avondale is meant to be Cincinnati's innovation and technology center. The 65-acre mixed-use development is expected to have an investment of nearly $1.5 billion with large multi-million-dollar developments on each corner. However, Terrex is the first developer to begin construction on its $250 million project that includes three phases. The first phase should open in early 2022. Horton said there are some advantages to being first.

Being first

“I think the benefit of going first is you kind of get to set the bar,” said Horton. “So we’ve worked really hard to set a high bar from an architectural perspective, from our community engagement perspective.”

In addition to UC's 180,000-square-foot Digital Futures building, there will be another similar office research building, a Hilton Homewood Suites hotel and a 1,300-space underground parking garage as part of the first phase, according to Horton. He said there are companies that want to be close to the research UC is doing.

“We’re already seeing great interest and activity. So we’re very excited about some of the potential corporate clients that are looking at taking space within our development,” he said.

Additional phases

The second phase will include another garage, another office research building and retail space, while the third phase will include residential units.

However, the first phase of the project has already met some challenges. Horton said 15- to 20-foot grade changes along Martin Luther King Drive caused them to rethink their original design to compensate for the difference. The decision was to make all of the buildings one elevation.

“From a pedestrian experience, you can walk directly onto the podium at grade from Reading and MLK, and be able to get to everything on the site and never have to kind of go up or down,” Horton said. The decision corresponds with an overall plan to make sure the entire development is pedestrian-friendly.

Cars aren't visible

Horton said the development places a lot of focus on pedestrians.

“We’ve really worked hard to do a couple things and the first move was to try to push all vehicular traffic off of the podium all together,” he said. That means with the underground parking, you likely won't see vehicular traffic on the development's plaza level.

“The second thing we did was really try to be thoughtful in terms of our design and our approach to creating programmable spaces,” said Horton, adding that they want to create active spaces similar to Fountain Square or Washington Park. “It’ll include areas for lectures and small concerts and exercise areas, meeting spaces,” Horton added.

He also said the community wants to see public art work as part of the development.

“The actual location of it is still being designed," said Horton. "But, we have some great ideas in terms of engagement on kind of the best and brightest in this community to help us with the design of that artwork.”

With UC as the anchor tenant of the corner, he said, the artwork could be a way to showcase some of the artistic talent of UC students.