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Innovation business park could be sited throughout Davis

By From page A1 | November 13, 2012

Despite its deficiency in large chunks of land, Davis still can support a successful high-tech innovation hub to help drive the local economy, a city task force has found.

It just needs to get a little creative.

On Tuesday, the City Council will hear a presentation on the findings of its Innovation Park Task Force after a year and a half of research about how and, maybe more importantly, where to develop a business park in Davis.

In collaboration with Studio 30 — a UC Davis Extension graduate course that studies community planning and design — the task force has determined that a “dispersed innovation strategy” model can best capture the types of high-tech companies Davis wants for an innovation district.
City leaders have long believed that an innovation park is vital to creating jobs, generating revenue and improving the local economy in general.
Essentially, rather than packing every business venture it can into one centralized location, the task force has proposed setting aside different-sized sites throughout Davis, in order to maximize the land and existing facilities within the city.

An innovation center — which is what the task force believes is the best model for the city to use — is made up of a facility or set of facilities that host like-minded professionals, start-ups or established companies that can collaborate and advance their specific industries together.

“Two important components in new innovation centers are the ability to draw a critical mass of innovators and to provide ongoing opportunities for informal, interdisciplinary face-to-face interactions,” the staff report explained.

The group says this model will attract new businesses because the different sites would be able to accommodate a wide variety of companies in different stages of their “life cycles.”
The task force also believes it will help Davis retain the businesses that currently operate in town rather than see them move away when they need a different or larger space to accommodate their growing business.
“Most remaining small, dispersed sites in the city are not adequate to meet the needs of growing businesses and mid-sized companies,” the staff report to the council said. “The innovation centers studied averaged around 200 acres in size and offer a variety of parcel sizes and ownership opportunities, flexible use/size of space and lease terms and physical and virtual business support services allowing successful businesses to remain as they grow.”
The group believes offering a dense mixture of large undeveloped pieces of land, existing office space and build-ready sites could put the city of Davis in the best position to attract a wide array of businesses.
And for Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson, who worked with the task force throughout this process, the new innovation model would compound the city’s advantage in the region.

“We kind of sit in this jewel of an area,” Swanson said Monday. “(The city) can also be successful because of UC Davis, an educated workforce, its proximity to I-80, I-5 and (Sacramento International Airport), even the proximity to the Bay Area.”

Studio 30 has its eye on several sites where Davis could dedicate land for pieces of its innovation center, including two large undeveloped peripheral sites both on the east and west sides of city limits, a large slice of land on the Fifth Street corridor and the Nishi property between I-80 and UC Davis.
The plan also would look to fill existing buildings and other sites dispersed throughout the city.

The City Council created the Innovation Park Task Force as an outcome of the Business Park Land Use Strategy completed in October 2010, which looked at the future, long-term (2035) land supply needed to accommodate projected employment and business growth in Davis under alternate development scenarios.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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