The Tampa Bay Innovation Center is inching closer to filling the financial gap needed for the new 45,000-square-foot innovation center in St. Pete.
The facility, which will be renamed ARK Innovation Center, will be the first in Pinellas County purposely constructed to focus on entrepreneurs. It will be located on 2.5 acres of city-donated land at 4th Street and 11th Avenue South in the Innovation District.
During a public meeting held at Enoch Davis Center Thursday, Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers said the county received the $3.8 million requested from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to go toward the $15.87 million project.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration previously approved roughly $7.46 million to go toward the project. The new ask of $3.8 million bumps up the total commitment from the EDA to nearly $11.26 million.
The center also received $2 million from investor Cathie Wood for naming rights for the center.
With Wood’s investment and the EDA’s commitment, there’s a $1.5 million tap remaining that Flowers and others said they “are confident” will be filled.
It was not stated how exactly the remaining $1.5 million would be covered, but there are numerous naming rights available within the center.
In addition to announcing the funding, the speakers also revealed the center would have Class A rates for companies that desire to have a physical space inside.
“The law requires us to lease it at Class A rates. We don’t get to choose that,” Tampa Bay Innovation Center Chair Chris Paradies said.
He added there could be potential for subsidizing and that entrepreneurs can still attend programs without needing to rent space.
There will be 30,000 square feet on the first floor for incubator companies and the other floor will be for ARK as it’s the anchor tenant.
“A company to be named will have space there,” Paradies said.
Further details were not disclosed, but the group has received continued interest from companies inquiring about space.
“I could tell you our phones have not stopped ringing since the announcement of ARK,” Flowers said. “We had stiff competition across the bay but we had an opportunity for them to commit and help build the innovation center.”
The innovation center would have a conference room that could hold 225 people, a community cafe, a lab that would have 3D printers and lasers, smaller breakout rooms, podcasts rooms and more.
The group hopes to start construction in 2022 and expects the center to be completed in July 2023.
The center has not selected a builder yet, but bids have been received.
Flowers said the county will be working with the builders to make sure they subcontract with women and minority-owned businesses for the build.
“We all know now (one) of the most meaningful and sustainable ways to help the community is to create wealth within a community,” Pinellas County Director of Economic Development Cynthia Johnson said. “The purpose of having an incubator in our community is so we can really build a solid foundation for businesses sprouting out from that incubator.”
Whether it’s an aspiring entrepreneur with a concept and no product, or an entrepreneur whose business is growing, the center will have specially-tailored opportunities.
Paradies said the goal of the center is to “cross-pollinate,” where entrepreneurs can learn from one another and share ideas.
Flowers pointed out how this is one crucial part of establishing the Innovation District, as other projects are in the works such as the maritime hub incubator, and the Sankofa Group’s project in The Deuces that will have a co-working space component.