Over its 25 year history Inventure has either taken the lead or been directly involved in bringing to fruition a number of important community projects.
Formed in 1984 by Northwestern University and the City of Evanston, Evanston Inventure was created to be a strong economic development partnership made up of the City, University, and the private sector. Over its 25 year history Inventure has either taken the lead or been directly involved in bringing to fruition a number of important community projects.
From its beginnings Inventure was responsible for managing the redevelopment of the 22-acre triangle of land just west of downtown and located between the berms of Evanston’s two commuter rail lines. A for-profit partnership of the City of Evanston and Northwestern University was formed to create an urban Research and Technology Park on the land and its development became Inventure’s first major undertaking. Inventure participated in the planning, marketing, and implementation of an effort to develop the dilapidated and poorly-used 22-acre parcel into a modern, mixed-use technology development. Its purpose was to create, grow, and attract large and small technology-based companies, with research synergies to Northwestern University, and to create jobs and new tax base for the City of Evanston.
Over time six buildings - totaling 400,000 SF - were constructed or rehabbed in the Park to hold university and hospital research facilities as well as some 70 private technology companies. The City/Northwestern partnership also supported the creation and financing of a technology incubator, the Technology Innovation Center, that has graduated some 300 companies to the present day, some 30 of them still remaining in Evanston. In the mid-1990’s the real estate market crashed and no additional multi-tenant buildings could find financing. After three years of treading water, the city and university agreed to re-orient the remaining Park land to high-rise residential, retail and entertainment uses for the southern portion of the site.
The Park and Inventure then worked with private developers and the city to leverage more than $200 million in new investment, including the six technology office and lab buildings, an 18-screen cinema complex, 100,000 SF of new restaurants and retail, a 30-unit town home development, a 200,000 SF corporate headquarters, a 23-story condominium tower, a Hilton hotel and a 1400-car public parking structure.
Today the former research park stands as one of the most successful mixed-use urban projects in the country, creating a new development format for cities seeking a single site for work, home and play. The Technology innovation Center continued operating after the Park was changed and (www.theincubator.org) moved into space in downtown Evanston. Inventure then turned its attention to other projects and problems summarized in the list below.
- Assisted in the creation and growth of the Technology Innovation Center, a technology incubator providing a supportive environment for new, start-up technology companies. The TIC has been privatized and is now located at 820 Davis St. It currently has approximately 50 small technology-based business start-ups as tenants.
- Raised $1 MM from five Inventure members to create a seed capital fund that invested in 26 Evanston start-up companies including Peapod and Illinois Superconductor.
- Brought a State of Illinois and SBA-funded Small Business Development Center to help many small businesses in Evanston and throughout the North Shore with technical advice and financing
- Developed a comprehensive Smart Move! marketing program to encourage new, small businesses to locate and grow in Evanston.
- Working with both Evanston and St. Francis Hospitals and School District 202 Inventure helped develop a healthcare internship program for seniors at Evanston Township High School for those students who wished to pursue careers in health care.
- Again, working with those same two hospital members Inventure was instrumental in generating discussions that resulted in an outsourcing of city health services to the hospitals. The result was a $1 million a year savings to the taxpayers of Evanston.
- Inventure was responsible for obtaining a $100,000 grant from the RTA to study the transportation impacts of all the new development in the Research Park and downtown.
- Worked to keep Evanston publishing company, McDougal Littell to remain and expand in Evanston to and locate its new corporate headquarters in a new building at 1007 Church Street.
- Worked with downtown office-building owners to develop a cooperative office space marketing campaign that attracted out of town tenants and cut the vacancy rate by 50%.
- Helped in the creation and development of both Evmark and the Evanston Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Found an anchor tenant from the Research Park for the former Chandler’s building that brought the abandoned structure back to an award-winning historical re-use and tax generating property.
- Used its Research Park relationships to broker the first Illinois Technology Enterprise Center grant to Northwestern University, a state-funded center assisting start-up technology companies.
- Worked for two years with residents and businesses on Evanston’s West Side to redevelop and revitalize their neighborhood. Inventure was instrumental in creating the Evanston Community Development Corporation (ECDC) and the securing of a Tax Increment Finance District designation for the Church/Dodge area. Inventure also funded a planning and design firm to work with the West Side community to help them concretize their vision of their neighborhood’s future.