Walking distance from the Entrepreneurial District

May 18, 2007

I just moved into the Innovation Depot in the Entrepreneurial District recently.  While there’s only a few restaurants, gas stations, or convenience/grocery stores in the district there are a good number only a few blocks walk away.  I figured it’d be fun to catalog them in a Google Map using their “My Maps” functionality.  This is my first attempt at it… next step is to create some methodology for rating these businesses (food quality, hours of operation, etc.).

Click on this map to view the live GoogleMap version…
GoogleMap of Birmingham's Entrepreneurial District

Entrepreneurial District in the B’ham News

May 17, 2007

Birmingham News
Business is booming in enterprise sector
Lofts, storefronts among new projects
Thursday, May 17, 2007
News staff writer

Birmingham’s Entrepreneurial District is the site of at least $47 million in planned, ongoing or new developments, a trend that downtown advocates expect to grow with the recent opening of the expanded business incubator, Innovation Depot.

Offices, lofts and storefronts are among the new projects in the district that lies on downtown’s western edge, an area that has not kept up with the development pace of neighborhoods closer to financial and government centers.

But things have been changing recently. Besides the new buildings, plans are in the works for park and streetscape improvements in and around the district, as well as special signs that denote the area, like those in the Loft District.

“I think it’s becoming known as the place for entrepreneurs, particularly technology-related businesses,” ONB President Michael Calvert said. “We’re optimistic that the Innovation Depot will really be the catalyst to take it to the next level.”

The Innovation Depot, a $17 million project which opened last month, combines the former Entrepreneurial Center and UAB’s Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries in the revamped former Sears building.

The 140,000-square-foot space, with its soaring ceilings, concrete pillars and exposed ductwork, has the capacity to house 60 to 65 biotechnology, life sciences, information technology, light manufacturing and business services companies.

The Innovation Depot is a signature development for the district and offers confidence to other entrepreneurs looking to set up shop there, said CEO Susan Matlock. “It really can be an entrepreneurial district,” she said.

Elsewhere in the district, geotechnical engineering firm Gallet & Associates Inc. bought the former Entrepreneurial Center and plans to renovate it for a corporate office, a $2.6 million project.
Another $500,000 is going into the Acme building, which Matthew Myers is renovating for his scooter restoration shop and dealership, along with other commercial and loft space.
Additional residences in the district are planned at the former Cabana Hotel, now called Leer Tower, and the Jefferson Loft building.

The Entrepreneurial District, which stretches from Interstate 65 to 18th Street North, covering First and Second avenues, got its name several years ago as a part of a series of initiatives aimed at advancing technology in Birmingham.

The signs denoting the district, which show a stylized lower-case “e,” were designed by BIG Communications, and the measure is still in the proposal stage, Calvert said. An ONB task force, which includes developers with projects in the district, is planning to pursue funding for the signs from public and private sources. They also must get permission from the city to install the signs on street lamps.
Cost estimates on the signs are not complete.

The Innovation Depot goes a long way toward giving the area an identity as the epicenter of technology and enetrepreneurship, and Calvert said he thinks the signs will complement that.  Developer Jeremy Erdreich said the signs will promote the district as a place and help create a visual brand that the public can recognize. Erdreich and his sister, Anna, are partners in Metropolitan LLC, which is developing the Jefferson Loft building. The project would include 23 luxury condos, with an investment that would top $6 million. The Erdreiches also developed The Phoenix building and its 74 units, which opened two years ago and is 100 percent leased.

Metropolitan has been a pioneer in the district since the purchase of The Phoenix building in the late 1990s. Since then, the Erdreiches have seen plenty of activity in the district and also projects just outside of it, such as the Jemison Flats lofts and the new Social Security Administration building. The Erdreiches see a need for more high-tech companies to move in and build new headquarters in the district, along with bars, cafes and galleries.

Other projects planned in and around the district include streetscape improvements on 14th Street from UAB to 8th Avenue North. The city has budgeted more than $1 million for street borders, trees and streetlights.

The planned Railroad Reservation Park also is just outside the district.
At Leer Tower, a sales center is expected to open by the end of next week, said developer David Leer. The $20 million project will include 60 high-end units, with base prices ranging from $239,000 to $580,000.  “For us, it’s very exciting to see they’re putting a real emphasis on this area, and we’re really right in the middle of it,” Leer said.

Gallet Buys Office Bldg. in Entrepreneurial Center

April 25, 2007

April 25, 2007 E-mail this article
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Written by Robert C. Knauf

Gallet Buys Office Bldg. in Entrepreneurial Center

Innovation Depot Sells 48,000-SF Bldg. in Downtown Birmingham

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Gallet & Associates Inc. purchased the office portion of the Entrepreneurial Center, an office and industrial complex in Birmingham, AL, for $2 million, or about $42 per square foot. The seller was Innovation Depot Inc.

The 48,000-square-foot office building was constructed in 1950 and renovated in 1990, and sits at 110 12th St. North in the city’s Central Business District. Gallet & Associates will occupy about 38,000 square feet in the building in August, and lease out the remainder of space. The firm provides construction services, geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing, and environmental services in the southeastern United States.

Entrepreneurial Center also includes three warehouses totaling 32,370 square feet.

Walter Brown and Ogden Deaton of Graham & Co. represented the seller, while John Hardin of Southpace Properties Inc. represented the buyer.

Innovation Depot Bags a Baker

April 2, 2007

The Birmingham Business Journal reported the following in this past Friday’s paper:

The Bakery at Culinard will open a location in downtown’s new Innovation Depot, in the heart of Birmingham’s entrepreneurial district. The newly constructed incubator on First Avenue North will house the bakery’s first venture over the mountain from its base in Homewood.

My Point of View – by Curtis Palmer

January 7, 2007

… from the Birmingham News 07 Jan ’07 Sunday Paper – as submitted for publication

Birmingham was created by entrepreneurs who saw raw materials in close proximity and recognized an opportunity to create a city around an industry. Today’s Birmingham is not much different. The raw materials in the form of creativity, business prowess, and strong intellectual property also stand behind a burgeoning technology industry. This has implications in all facets of our lives and TechBirmingham is in the process of helping put this region onto the world stage.

This week marks the 4th anniversary of moving my family to the Birmingham area and taking the leadership role at TechBirmingham. In Atlanta, I had helped launch Internet companies and worked in Venture Capital. Taking these skills to a new region to help grow the technology economy appealed to me back then, but I had no idea how exciting this role in the community would become.

TechBirmingham has a rich history of making an impact on the community in both quiet and lasting ways. Our Tech Industry Initiatives strengthen and grow existing and fledgling technology companies and entrepreneurs. Community Initiatives support organizations that provide technology opportunities for students, from elementary school through college. And, our Exposure Initiatives spread the word about Birmingham’s technology ecosystem to those within and outside our metro area. We also advocate on behalf of the tech industries when working with recruitment and economic development agencies in our region.

Most citizens may associate TechBirmingham with our Ecycling Day efforts, the Entrepreneurial District in downtown Birmingham, or the creation of new venture capital sources. Other recent and equally important activities, however, include the following:

  • TechBirmingham regularly convenes an ad-hoc group known as the TechCouncil. It represents the leadership of more than 30 tech clubs. Together we staged two TechMixers in 2006. These events drew a total of 1,000 tech professionals in a social expo format. A third TechMixer is scheduled for this coming May.
  • TechBirmingham wants to be part of Birmingham’s branding efforts and has taken a leadership role in developing a working model for promoting the growing technology component of the region. The resulting “CHANGE campaign” features three diverse technology leaders appearing in their own 30-second commercials. The three themes in the initial package challenge the viewer to change their mind, their future, and their lifestyle by considering Birmingham as a great place to live. In fact, the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “cool communities” task force recommended that the chamber adopt a similar program to recruit and retain young professionals.
  • TechBirmingham supports regional and statewide efforts to recruit businesses with a tech focus. For instance, we recently partnered with the Alabama IT Association to play matchmaker between targeted technology companies in India and venture capital sources here in Alabama. We hope to create new small businesses by pairing international technology operations with our region’s strong sales and marketing executives, backed by local capital sources. This is our organization’s attempt to change the tide of outsourcing and create a bit of “reverse sourcing” to benefit our local economy.

Everyone is invited to learn more about these and other new initiatives on February 22nd at the TechBirmingham Annual Meeting.

I remain as excited about Birmingham’s future with technology as when I arrived. The coming year promises to bring even more excitement in the technology community. If I could change but one thing, it would be to convince my fellow citizens to stop saying quietly, “I think I can,” and start saying with conviction, “I know I can.” Together we can all bring positive change to our region and keep us moving forward.

Live Blogging the ONB UnTapped Seminar

October 13, 2006

ONB_UnTappedEntrepreneurialDistrictOperation New Birmingham is hosting “Untapped Opportunities: The Entrepreneurial District” in the B&A Warehouse.

  • Susan Matlock, President of the Innovation Depot, talked about the status of the redevelopment of the former Sears building
  • Robert Skunda, CEO of Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, is the keynote speaker right now talking about how they launched their development area
    • It was a partnership between the city, the state, and the university
    • The only state contribution in VA was $5M back in 1993
    • 49 States and numerous countries have Biotech strategies
    • The “Science Park” has been open for 10 years, had 587K of space, 43 private companies, 4 VCU institutes, 4 state laboratories, and 5 non-profits
    • First 10 acres had 48 different owners
    • Has made a commitment to adjacent neighborhoods NOT to develop amenities within the park
    • Developed “Biotech One” as a graduation-friendly 100K sq-ft multi-tenant building at a $15M total cost… there is a VCU-supported Master Lease and is now 100% leased
    • Developed “Biotech Two” at a total cost of $30M… 131K sq-ft build-to-suit project for the Virginia District of Foresnic Science and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – it was dedicated in August 1998
    • Developed “Biotech Six” at a cost of $63M… 194K sq-ft to locate all major state laboratory services and includes 210-space city-owned parking structure – occupied since May 2003
    • Philip Morris USA is building a 450K+ sq-ft facility with $350M investment to consolidate global scientific research with emphasis on research leading to new product development… upwards of 700 scientists, engineers and support staff – completion scheduled in mid-2007
    • The latest building scheduled to start in two weeks is “Biotech Eight” with 75K sq-ft “wet lab” capabale facility… $22M construction cost with multi-tenant spaces ranging from 1,200 sq-ft to 25K sq-ft full-floor users
  • Additional seminars include:
    • Available buildings and sites
    • Financial incentives for locating businesses in the district and for (re)developing property in the district
    • Creating a “cool” tech community in the district and beyond