Business Matters

Cal Poly Tech Park Mixer Unviels Expansion Plans

“A project of Cal Poly and the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP), the Cal Poly Technology Park is a home on campus for technology-based businesses — particularly firms engaged in applied research and development.” – Jim Dunning, Interim Director, Economic Development and Technology Transfer, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

That quote is the Cal Poly website’s official explanation, in a nutshell, of what the C3RP and the complex they’ve built on campus is all about. And, in the nine years since construction started on the Park, a few things have changed.

For one, Dunning’s title used to be simply Program Administrator C3RP, but he’s now the public face of a business community located just off the main campus in Building 83, up Mt Bishop Road.

About 10,000 sq. ft. of the nearly 30,000 sq. ft. in the Park’s prototype building were already leased before the place opened in 2010 and by 2014 they were sold out.

There are multiple ways to interpret that. Perhaps it took awhile for the concept to catch on after a burst of interest, or it takes some time to find suitable candidates for the type of cooperative development proposed.

Either way, in 2017 it’s now time for them to get growing.

The same week that CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong and College of Science and Mathematics Dean Phil Bailey got all excited to announce an historic gift of $110 million for Bailey’s department from alumni William and Linda Frost, the C3RP held a much less glitzy gathering to discuss expansion of the Park, with a $500,000 grant already in place for planning.

At a mixer event May 10 – one of several Dunning plans periodically for Cal Poly staff, faculty, and interested members of the public to get to know the Park’s tenants – he explained that 12 companies currently fit in the pilot space for the tech-park, but they’ve learned a thing or two about future needs, and there’s quite the waiting list. Not so coincidentally, they also have another 11 acres locked into the campus development master plan for development. That’s a little like zoning approval in a municipal context.

In 2015 C3RP started examining the feasibility of expansion and the SLO–based firm RRM design group started drafting general site plans.  To be phased in over a period of years, the current favorite – Site Plan A, although there are other options with varied final costs and space build out – calls for four new buildings to bring the Park’s total to total 151,000 sq. ft. of interior space. The buildings would be phased in one by one in a radial pattern around a central visitors’ area.

Dunning said the difference between the current two-story building and the new construction would be in the incorporation of smaller rentable areas and “flex space,” units separated by roll up doors and versatile ability.

Many employees of the current tenants –at least those that attended the mixer  – work in the offices available in the upper floor of the original building. They noted that the two main reasons for being located at the Tech Park were the excellent high speed Internet, and availability of an intern and grad student workforce within walking distance. The original vision of the site however was to have more prototyping and product testing in convertible labs.

Currently the primary users of that ability are Tyvak, providers of “Nano-Satellite and CubeSat space vehicle products” and the Applied Biotechnology Institute, specializing in plant biotechnology and products targeted for industrial and animal science.

The next step at the moment is to go tot the Chancellor’s office for approval of their plans, but by this time next year, dunning said, they hope to be on their way with another 20,000-30,000 sq.ft. of space to rent.   Possibly through a public-private partnership wherein a developer would buy out the rights and lease out the space on their own. Most importantly, the colligate atmosphere and networking potential of the campus within a campus would be maintained.

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