Governor JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a host of other business and education leaders from across Chicago on Friday unveiled the design for the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute, the centerpiece of The 78, a new neighborhood that will build on a vacant lot southwest of downtown.
The research organization’s headquarters, valued at $250 million, was touted as the future crown jewel of a growing ecosystem of high-tech labs and facilities, a hub that officials said would fuel job growth. and stop the “brain drain” of skilled tech workers from Chicago.
“DPI’s new headquarters will house offices, classrooms, labs and event space along the Chicago River, turning a long-empty old rail yard into a world-class talent and innovation powerhouse with aesthetics to match,” he said. Pritzker.
“This will cement our place as a premier tech community,” Lightfoot added.
Developer 78 Related Midwest plans to start construction in 2024 on DPI and four other buildings, including offices, wet lab space and a student center for the university, and finish it all by 2026, according to company president Curt Bailey.
They will be the first steps toward filling the vacant 62-acre riverfront site between Roosevelt Road in the north and Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park in the south, and the university’s institute should attract businesses looking to recruit its students and researchers. , he added.
“The DPI is going to be the driver, the engine that makes things happen,” he said. “This is going to be one of the most incredible opportunities in the country for a technology company to relocate to an urban setting.”
OMA New York architect Christy Cheng said the design of the eight-story glass and steel dome reflects DPI’s mission to attract people from all walks of life, including students and people with doctorates. The ground floor will be open on all sides and welcoming to passers-by, with no front or back door. The interior will not be segregated in any way, with classrooms and research spaces mixed together, and a central atrium will act as a gathering space, where high school students can meet and meet Nobel Prize winners.
The state contributed $500 million to help fund DPI, along with a network of research centers at other Illinois universities. And officials say they hope it will form a nucleus that prevents promising researchers and startups from leaving the state once they reach a certain level of success and need the kind of venture capital found in places like Silicon Valley if they want to keep growing.
“That has been an unfortunate trend and we have to turn it around,” said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System. “It’s not just a brain drain; the dollars are gone.”
The lab, research, and office spaces at DPI will give entrepreneurs the opportunity to start small and turn ideas developed at any university in the region, not just the University of Illinois, into startups that graduate in space. larger and attract more financing, he additional. It’s an opportune time, as high housing costs and other living expenses on the coasts are weighing down struggling entrepreneurs.
“I think the shorelines are a little bit depleted right now,” he said. “So, I think this is a great opportunity for the center of the country.”
DPI is already working across the state, tracking the spread of COVID-19 through wastewater testing, and training hundreds of students each year in tech fields, according to Killeen. It will soon expand its training programs to serve almost 1,000 students a year.
That could help build pipelines between tech companies and communities where tech jobs have been in short supply, said Zaldwaynaka Scott, president of Chicago State University, a predominantly black school on the city’s south side.
“It will provide opportunities for our students to engage with the technology sector in real and meaningful ways,” he said.