This is the first in a series of posts to highlight the initiatives established by the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan submitted for consideration for a $500 million award from New York State. The plan in its entirety can be found here.
One of the four initiatives in the Southern Tier's URI plan is the creation of three distinct Innovation Districts (iDistricts) in Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott, known to long-time residents as the “triple cities.” Innovation districts are more than just a trend – they are dynamic and impactful corridors where ideas, research and industry feed off one another. The Greater Binghamton Innovation Ecosystem will create an innovation and redevelopment corridor connected to research and development at Binghamton University. The outcome of this initiative will be a distinctive and vibrant place and focal point for new business and community development. Innovation districts encourage high density development of industry, retail, and recreational spaces.
Innovation districts are not new and there are examples of success throughout the world. A great read about innovation districts is Brookings Institution “Rise of the Innovation Districts” which asserts that the new geography of innovation is all about proximity and cool spaces – where people can come together quickly and frequently and are physically connected to where they may choose to live and play. It’s like having everything you need within arm’s length and a walkable commute. The concept of the iDistricts in Broome County is also referenced in Broome County’s Comprehensive Plan, which outlined three distinctive areas ready and able to build off assets such as the growth of Binghamton University, healthcare and manufacturing.
The support for the Greater Binghamton Innovation Ecosystem as part of the URI says much of the Council’s keen understanding of the needs of the Greater Binghamton area and the vision for its future. As the largest urban center in the region, Greater Binghamton’s unique “triple cities” infrastructure is unified by shared transportation, and waterways, services and commerce. Greater Binghamton’s urban core is also the most challenged by declining population, unemployment, poverty and blight.
Enter Binghamton University as the anchor institution in each of the iDistricts and a different story will be told. The Binghamton iDistrict will spark a tech innovation culture supported by the Southern Tier High Tech Incubator in the areas of alternative energy, electronics and health care and will be set against the marked revival of downtown Binghamton with vibrant restaurants, festivals, art, sports and entertainment.
The Johnson City Health and Cultural iDistrict will establish a cohesive community of academic and health care institutions, including the BU School of Pharmacy, UHS Wilson Hospital, and plans to build a Center for Regenerative Medicine and Binghamton Biofoundry. Set in the backdrop of a former industrial community, this iDistrict will make what was old new again through the redevelopment of a number of historic EJ buildings and the rehabilitation of the Goodwill Theater into a dynamic center for the arts.
The hub of the Endicott Advanced Manufacturing iDistrict will be the Huron Campus and will include BU’s Flexible Printed Electronics Technology and Industrial 3D Printing Centers. This campus will be the center of activity for advanced manufacturing and will rejuvenate an area rich with heritage and walkable neighborhoods.
The Council didn’t shy away from an aggressive strategy for this initiative. Outcomes and impact are significant. The URI plan estimates an investment of more than $117,000,000 and economic impact of nearly $1 billion. Job creation in the iDistricts will reach more than 2,300 new jobs and a 20% increase of median household income. This initiative also intends to reduce commercial vacancy rates by more than 50%, create more than 550 new moderate and market rate housing units, renovate 100 single-family houses and add 25,000 linear feet of streetscaping. It's a bold agenda, but one that's ready to go.
The creation of the Greater Binghamton Innovation Ecosystem will foster a dynamic and vibrant ecosystem, return the value of place to the urban core, and create new history for the triple cities.
“The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas and enthusiasm.” – Thomas J. Watson
posted by Stacey Duncan