On Tuesday, the Davis Chamber of Commerce came out with a policy position in support of “the planning process necessary to entitle land for one or more Innovation Parks that will support the retention, attraction, and growth of innovation sector companies in the City of Davis.
“Over the past year, the viability of peripheral Innovation Parks has coalesced at a rate we couldn’t have expected when Studio 30 published its report in June 2012. With two applications formally submitted, combined with the potential of Nishi, the pace at which momentum builds will only accelerate,” said Matt Yancey, CEO of the Davis Chamber. “As that pace accelerates, the need for informed debate, grounded in the facts, becomes increasingly imperative. With this policy statement, we seek to clearly articulate why we at the Davis Chamber believe this is a path Davis must continue to follow.”
In July of 2012, the City of Davis’ Innovation Park Task Force released a report prepared by Studio 30 that “evaluated the characteristics, benefits, and initial feasibility of Innovation Parks in Davis. As defined, a “university research park” (Innovation Park) is a property-based venture that includes the following characteristics:
- Master-planned property and buildings designed primarily for private-public R/D facilities, high-technology and science-based companies, and support services;
- A contractual, formal, or operational relationship with one· or more science-research institutions;
- A role in promoting the university’s R&D through industry partnerships, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development; and
- A role in aiding the transfer of technology and business skills between university and industry teams.
The Chamber wrote, “In short, this is not the typical commercial and/or industrial ‘business park.’ Innovation Parks are typically within a few miles of a major university.” Furthermore, “successful Innovation Parks work collaboratively with the community and affiliated university to apply for research and development funding.
“These facilities attract highly innovative companies that are at the cutting edge of their respective industries. As such, they tend to pay higher-than-average salaries for regions in which they are located,” the Chamber writes. “These higher-than average salaries typically translate into additional wealth circulating within their local market areas. In turn, that creates more money in the community to generate tax revenue at current rates; and, the taxes paid by the businesses themselves provides additional revenue streams to support and bolster the infrastructure and community amenities currently enjoyed in the City of Davis.”
The Chamber continued, “Davis as a community, has been assessing and discussing the potential of an Innovation Park since the early 1990’s. Last May, the City issued a ‘Request for Expressions of Interest’ (RFEI) from parties interested in developing Innovation Parks. “Specifically, the City looked to identify developers prepared to build facilities that would serve the research and technology sectors in Davis and create places for Davis technology companies to continue their growth and investment in our local economy. The city has since received three RFEI proposals and two formal applications; and, may receive at least one more formal application from among the RFEI respondents.”
The Chamber concluded, “If collaboratively designed with community input that is appropriately implemented by the developers, Innovation Parks hold tremendous community and economic development potential for the City of Davis. After decades of thorough study and discussion, the time has come for us to actively and legitimately pursue this opportunity on behalf of our community.”
In October of this year, two Innovation Center applications were submitted.
The Mace Ranch Innovation Park will require the annexation of roughly 229 acres of land and the development itself will be on 212 acres.
“The Project site is of an adequate size to address the City’s need for an innovation and technology park and is ideally located since it is contiguous to the intersection of Mace Boulevard and Interstate 80 and has fiber optic capabilities immediately available,” the applicants write.
“Additionally, agricultural lands with newly adopted conservation easements abut the property to the east and north; therefore, annexation and development of the property will result in a distinct urban edge leading up to a logical permanent growth boundary. The years that the City has spent researching and planning for this use and the strong merits of this site together strongly suggest City approval of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center is warranted.”
They see the innovation center as “an area where leading-edge technology institutions cluster and connect with start-ups, businesses incubators, and accelerators as well as the University of California, Davis. The Center will offer a mix of building types and uses including office, research and development, prototyping, light manufacturing, flex space and support retail.”
Meanwhile, a week later, in a letter from Sotiris Kolokotronis of SKK Developments to City of Davis Community Development and Sustainability Director Mike Webb, he described a proposed project as a “208-acre high-technology innovation and research campus at Highway 113 and Covell Boulevard. “
Mr. Kolokotronis wrote, “We have striven to address the City of Davis’ expressed goals for density, sustainability, agricultural land conservation, construction phasing, and design and uses that would provide community and fiscal benefits, as outlined in the Request for Expressions of Interest and the guiding principles communicated to our team by city staff, elected officials and neighborhood and community organizations.”
The project overview describes, “The Project is envisioned as a new technology hub for Davis, intended to serve an array of research and technology companies interested in locating and growing in Davis. The Project plans for a unique business environment, supporting research and development, technology, and science- and engineering-based companies, eager to expand their products and services. The Project will support an environment of innovation in flexible formats: incubation spaces for small start-up firms, facilities for established mid-size or large size companies; to large floor-plate, flexible building spaces for high-tech research and light manufacturing; and potentially corporate headquarters. Employee-support services and retail will create an active landscape for collaboration and innovation.
“The Project also provides numerous community benefits, including opportunities for industry partnerships and collaboration research being conducted on the University of California Davis (U.C. Davis) campus; job opportunities to retain young talent and entrepreneurs from U.C. Davis; and local job and economic growth benefits.”
The City of Davis, in addition to two and possibly three innovation park applications, will be examining a development proposal at Nishi and the Hotel Conference Center on Richards Blvd.
—David M. Greenwald reporting