Innovation center in UI Research Park to be razed

The near century-old building in the UI Research Park devoted to startup incubation is set to be demolished in spring 2019.


Katina Zentz

The UI Technology Innovation Center is seen in Coralville on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

As plans continue to turn the Old Art Building into an innovation center, an old University of Iowa innovation center will soon be a debris pile.

The Technology Innovation Center, opened in 1984 in the UI Research Park in Coralville, closed Sept. 30, Research Park Director of Operations Stephanie Dengler said in an email to The Daily Iowan. It will be demolished in the spring of 2019.

The building has been around since the early 1900s, Dengler said, and it had been used to treat tuberculosis patients.

Originally intended to aid the growth of small startup businesses in the area, she said, the innovation center no longer fulfilled that role.

“While [the Technology Innovation Center] was originally designed as an incubator for startups, the building — especially in recent years — was not conducive to that activity,” she said.

There were 10 businesses operating in the building when it closed, Dengler said, none of which were startups.

Dengler said the BioVentures Center, another building in the Research Park, is now the center of facilitating startups. Some of the businesses that formerly operated in the Innovation Center are now working in the BioVentures Center.

“[Each business] has found an alternative home, some in the BioVentures building, some in other locations in Coralville, North Liberty, and Iowa City,” said Stephen Pradarelli, the strategic-communication director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, writing in an email to the DI.

Another major reason behind closing the center was the age of the facility, Dengler said. The building had neither heating nor air conditioning, and the construction of the building made it difficult to set up reliable WiFi, she noted. 

RELATED: UI will seek approval for innovation center at Board of Regents meeting next week 

The state Board of Regents approved plans to raze the building in September. Dengler said the budget for the demolition is not final, but it will cost at least $25,000.

The regents in September also approved plans to convert the Old Art Building into a new innovation center, but Pradarelli said the projects are not related.

The UI has also launched other resources focused on startups, Dengler said. The Translational Research Incubator and Protostudios/MERGE are two such entities that work with startups in the area.

ActiBioMotion, an engineering company, was one of the 10 businesses in the Innovation Center when it closed. The center was the firm’s first office space in 2017, ActiBioMotion lead engineer Jonathan DeShaw said.

He was grateful for the opportunities the Innovation Center provided, he said. It provided affordable leases, and flexible office space, and helped the business grow, he said.

“It even make connections for you,” DeShaw said. “If you need certain resources, it connected you with people.”

ActiBioMotion has moved to the BioVentures Center, which, he said, provides many of the same services, and he understands why the center was closed.

“It was a charming old building, but it was probably rough to the point where it needed to be remodeled,” DeShaw said. “I can’t even imagine what it would cost to fully gut and remodel something.”