The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee broke ground today on Innovation Park. The 80-acre parcel of land is just north and east of the Milwaukee County Parks building on Watertown Plank Road. Purchased from Milwaukee County for $13.5 million, it will be the site of academic research, industry, housing and wildlife habitat.
Dignitaries from the state of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, city of Wauwatosa and UWM were on hand to talk about what the project will mean in terms of transforming the region and stimulating economic growth — including jobs for the city, state and region.
The project represents a total of $500 million in capital investment, said Tom Luljak, vice chancellor of the university. “Forty to 50 percent will be on the tax rolls,” he said of the revenue that will be realized upon completion of the project that will include the reconfiguration of the Zoo Interchange.
The Federal Economic Development Administration awarded a $5.4 million grant to the city of Wauwatosa and the UWM Real Estate Foundation to construct Innovation Park’s first building — a 25,000-square-foot business-accelerator facility — in 2012 and to make site improvements starting this summer. The project has also received a $75 million allocation from the state for the second building, which has no scheduled construction date.
“This project is poised to transform the region,” said UWM Chancellor Michael Lovell. “Innovation Park will greatly increase the research capacity of our university and draw us closer to our many outstanding partners already located nearby. This project adds value to what is happening here. For UWM, this is clearly the place to be.”
Today’s groundbreaking was the result of nearly seven years of planning by the university, the county, the state and the city. Local businessman and philanthropist Michael Cudahy was on hand and recognized as a primary contributor to the project. Cudahy compared the Innovation Park project to the seminal project that resulted in the economic juggernaut of Silicon Valley in California.
Gov. Scott Walker spoke to the crowd of about 200 people on a hill crest overlooking acres of wildflowers on a sunny, wind-swept morning. “This will be the largest academic cluster in the entire state and one of the largest in the country,” he said of the potential collaboration of efforts with the , Children’s Hospital and Health System, Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Blood Center, Blood Research Institute, GE Healthcare and . “This is a key economic engine for this region.”
Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier was among the featured speakers. “We are lucky to have this project and commend our city’s Common Council who persevered to realize this day,” she said.
The project has many components with a focus on academic research and biomedical engineering. According to the university, Innovation Park will not only offer technology transfer and business incubation services, but incorporate the academic and research enterprise of the university directly into the development of the private sector park. The combination of industry, academia and nonprofit research organizations working in partnership at the same location are expected to attract both companies to the region and leverage the intellectual property from the academic research to spin out new companies.