In an effort to generate economic development and recruit innovative industry, East Carolina University and project developer Elliott Sidewalk Communities have begun construction of Intersect East, as a new edition of ECU’s new Millennial Campus.
Founder of Elliott Sidewalk Communities Tim Elliott said the company has signed a 99-year lease and invested about $325 million in the 19-acre property that will become Intersect East. He said he and co-founder Brian Rogers founded Elliott Sidewalk Communities in 2017, though his previous company Sidewalk Development played a role in the creation of the Lofts on Dickinson located off of Dickinson Avenue and Reade Circle.
The university selected the company to develop the research campus in 2018, Elliott said, and over time their vision has been to transform the traditional research campus into a “pacesetter innovative hub,” a campus that the company hopes will pave the way for other research multi-use campuses in an effort to collaborate research and development projects with local industry, the medical community and the university.
“We aren’t chasing the all-beaker or lab coat channel,” Elliott said. “We are taking the champion businesses known in the Eastern region and others who would like to join the band and bring them into here to help complete their research and development, their R&Ds, in tandem with the university masters and professors to get their R&D done quicker and better.”
By establishing plans for the Dickinson Avenue District and Intersect East, Elliott said he hopes to bring commercial industry to the area and promote “the art of the stroll” in an effort to localize these businesses to the community. Using the location of Downtown Greenville as an advantage, Elliot said the campus will establish housing, restaurants, retail and more to attract young workforce to a walkable and socialized research setting.
The project will encompass 14 buildings within ECU’s warehouse district and will be completed through four phases, Elliott said, and the construction of the first phase was initiated Oct. 5. He said the company was given the deed to three historic buildings totaling about 115,000 square feet that will be transformed into innovative office and research projects.
The warehouse district is ideal because of its location along 10th Street, Elliott said, as well as the nearby location of Vidant Health, the university’s main campus and the ECU Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building. He said downtown’s economic activity will be benefited by the project’s attraction of new industry and employment opportunities.
“There’s so much dialogue about Charlotte, the Triad, Raleigh, and often Greenville and the east is left out of that economic discussion,” Elliott said. “And so, I think this (project) will help bring them back into the statewide future research and biotech economic discussion with the rest of the state.”
Ron Mitchelson, vice chancellor for the division of health sciences, said he believes the $155 million project is the next step not only for ECU but Greenville, North Carolina, as a whole. The project was announced in 2015 and since then both the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building and the Miller School of Entrepreneurship have been built. Mitchelson said he wanted to kickstart economic development in the Greenville area as a whole.
Mitchelson said he believes in Greenville’s potential and wants the city to be a place where not only ideas that students bring to the table can grow but small businesses all around as well.
The Life Sciences and Biotechnology building, located on the corner of Evans and East 10th Street, was placed strategically across from Intersect East, Mitchelson said. He said he believes professionals such as chemists, biologists, physicists, etc. need a place to interact and innovate together. He said Intersect East will be a destination for a combination of different professions to come together and solve any current issue the City of Greenville or the world in general might be dealing with.
“What drives me to this kind of work is the desire to really create Greenville and ECU as a destination. I keep using that word, we are building a destination,” Mitchelson said.
The Greenville Eastern North Carolina (ENC) Alliance, an economic development group committed to grow industry in Greenville and Eastern North Carolina has partnered with ECU in the Intersect East project.
Uconda Dunn, vice president of business development at the Greenville ENC Alliance, said the company intends to recruit new industries to the area, promote existing businesses and market Greenville’s economic potential to create a thriving “innovation hub.”
The expansion of research and technology are two major components Greenville’s ENC Alliance will focus on, Dunn said, and Intersect East’s location between Vidant Health and ECU’s Main campus creates an opportunity to bring together the community into new and existing local industries. She said the company hopes to use Intersect East’s innovation to attract new research and development companies from across the country and state.
“We (Greenville ENC Alliance) were honored to be asked to be part of that project from a tenant perspective, but more importantly from our day-to-day operations of working to recruit new industry and working with existing industries here in our community,” Dunn said. “We’re excited to be able to market Greenville and market Intersect East as an ‘innovation hub,’ as a place where research and technology will be growing.”
Intersect East will include office space for commercial businesses and companies and clean labs for various research opportunities, Dunn said. Construction is intended to create a space where industries can thrive through collaboration with both ECU and Vidant Health, as well as Pitt County Community College, she said.
Greenville ENC Alliance will be one of the first tenants to have office space on Intersect East’s campus, Dunn said, which gives a hands-on advantage throughout their recruitment of other tenants.
“There’s nothing like this in Eastern North Carolina, there’s not a public-private partnership that’s bringing together education, the medical facility, the community, existing industry, there’s nothing like that in the eastern part of the state,” Dunn said. “You see those things in the Triad, you might of course see it in RTP (Research Triangle Park), so this will be the center of innovation for Eastern North Carolina, so it will definitely be a game changer.”