Resolution designates University Avenue as city’s first innovation district

The City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee passed a resolution Tuesday recognizing the Prospect North University Avenue partnership as the city’s first innovation district.

The proposed district would redevelop a section of University Avenue home to the Prospect Park LRT station bordered by the TCF Bank Stadium on the west and Hubbard Broadcasting in St. Paul on the east. The goal is to create a hub for new startups with pedestrian friendly streets, more green space and the latest in sustainable infrastructure.

The resolution authored by City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2) doesn’t allocate additional city dollars for the innovation district, but it does open the door for consideration of future investments, such as funding for basic infrastructure and redevelopment projects that support affordable housing and job creation.

The Prospect Park North Partnership includes several private and public sector partners and is chaired by Sarah Harris, managing director of the University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors.

The district is home to several tracts of underdeveloped property near the University of Minnesota’s Transitway and rail lines on its northern edge. Supporters of the innovative district say redevelopment opportunities could bring as many 7,000 new jobs to the area.

The full Council will consider the resolution supporting the innovation district at its meeting on Friday, Sept. 9.

The creation of urban innovation districts has become a trend across the country and an alternative to the isolated corporate campuses in suburban areas, according to a report from The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

In the report, Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner write: “A rising number of innovative firms and talented workers are choosing to congregate and co-locate in compact, amenity-rich enclaves in the cores of central cities. Rather than building on green-field sites, marquee companies in knowledge-intensive sectors are locating key facilities close to other firms, research labs, and universities so they can practice ‘open innovation.’”