CHAMPAIGN – The governing board of the University of Illinois Research Park on Monday gave the green light to local development firm Fox/Atkins to continue to expand the university's technology park.
The research park's board of managers, which has oversight of the park, approved a 10-year agreement with Fox/Atkins, which gives the company the go-ahead to continue managing and marketing the research park as well as build new buildings east of First Street.
The university announced last fall its intent to negotiate a contract with Fox/Atkins, which has been the original developer of the park since its inception more than a decade ago.
Ed McMillan, chair of the board of managers and a UI trustee, said the university went into the negotiations aiming for "an agreement that was good for both the university, the developer and the community that is part of this."
Unlike the UI's first 10-year agreement with Fox/Atkins, which expired last May, the university this time has negotiated for:
– Charging the developer ground rent based on appraisal with the ability to increase that rate based on inflation.
– Sharing profits when the developer sells a building should the developer choose to sell and the UI decides not to buy the building.
– Charging the developer utility connection fees to help offset the university's costs of extending utilities to the new buildings.
"It's a little more favorable to the university," developer Peter Fox said of the new 10-year deal.
The developer could pay more money to lease the land long-term from the UI and pay to access the infrastructure the university puts in place, he said. The university will install utilities such as electricity and natural gas up to 200 feet to the research park's new buildings and the developer will pay a connection fee to access those utilities. The developer will pay for roads, bike paths, telecommunications, sidewalks and storm sewers.
When the research park began a decade ago on university land roughly south of St. Mary's Road and west of First Street, it was home to fish ponds and corn fields, said Avijit Ghosh, the park's outgoing executive director and UI vice president of technology and economic development. Today "there are 90 companies in 10 different buildings," in addition to the I Hotel and Conference Center, he said. The next phase of expansion will be south of the hotel, east of First Street to Fourth Street extended and south to Windsor Road.
The university chose Fox/Atkins, Ghosh said, for a number of reasons, among them: "Fox/Atkins successfully executed the previous contract."
The firm also was willing to build new buildings on speculation, its management has been actively involved in running and marketing the park, is knowledgeable about the university and the community, and is flexible and willing to meet tenant needs, he said.
The selection of Fox/Atkins is the result of a process that began in summer 2009 when the university launched a call for request for information from potential developers, followed by a request for proposals that fall. Ultimately three developers submitted proposals and the university chose two finalists: Fox/Atkins and Carter, an Atlanta, Ga.-based real estate firm.
The agreement now will be sent to the UI Board of Trustees for final approval at its next meeting on March 23 in Springfield. University officials can then begin negotiating a ground lease with Fox/Atkins for the next tract of land to be developed.
Fox said he believes the first parcel to be slated for development will be south of the I Hotel on the east side of First Street. He envisions a multi-story "signature building." Groundbreaking could occur this year depending on when space is filled in the Gateway Building, the former Motorola building at the corner of St. Mary's Road and First Street.