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16 Tech Innovation District Under Development in Downtown Indianapolis

by: Jack Quigley
An innovation district focusing on tech, life sciences, and advanced engineering is currently under development in the historic Riverside neighborhood downtown Indianapolis. 16 Tech is joining forces with Core Planning Strategies, DKGR Architects, Meticulous Design and Architecture, Interface Studio Architects, Rowland Design Group, Circle Design Group, Browning Construction, Davis Construction, Shrewsberry & Associates, and others to renovate the site’s main innovation building called HqO.

Formerly operating as a Citizen’s Energy service garage and office building, the innovation hub began its renovation process in 2015 when the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership teamed up with neighborhoods around the site to convince the City-County Council to make available $75 million in financing for 16 Tech. That same year, CEO of 16 Tech Bob Coy helped found the 16 Tech Community Corporation, which undertook infrastructure and master development planning for the project’s 50 acres of downtown land.

HqO Innovation Building
16 Tech’s 130,000 square foot innovation hub includes three interconnected buildings, each of which serve a different purpose to tenants.

The 40,000 square foot Artisan Marketplace (AMP) will be located in the old service garage and will include a food and artisan hall that hosts a European-style market for local retailers and artisans, restaurant stalls with communal seating, and an event space that can be used for arts, culture, or corporate shows.

“To me the AMP is the most exciting piece of the development,” said John Albrecht, Principal at DKGR. “It’s the heartbeat of 16 Tech because it’ll have an amenity space that will be used by everybody – not just the users of the office building.”

Deb Kunce, founding principal for Core Planning Strategies, said the AMP will become a space where creative people can openly share and build on each other’s ideas.

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“The food hall is going to draw people from all around the innovation hub district,” Kunce said, “but it’s really a place for those who are in the maker space or office building to come and cross pollenate with others in the 16 Tech area”

Brightly branded and colored shipping containers inside the AMP will create unique vendor spaces that pay respect to the facility’s industrial history, while 20-foot-wide entryways on each side of the AMP will connect a campus-wide pedestrian pathway to a thoroughfare running through the marketplace.

“The alley is really like a covered interior street stretching from one side of the building to the other,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht said the path’s spacious entryways will remain open at all times unless incredibly inclement weather arises – at which point overhead garage doors will close off the building from the outdoor pathway.

Filling another 54,000 square feet of the HqO building will be 1776 – the tenant for 16 Tech’s coworking and corporate suites. This portion of the building was designed as a flexible office space that features shared conference rooms, large meeting areas, spaces for events, a classroom for instruction, and more. The central portion of this office building is described as a non-dedicated open area that can be used for impromptu meetings or coffee breaks, as well as for presentations or guest speakers.

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“This is meant to enhance that connectivity and the casual collisions between people as they’re moving through their day,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht said the previous office layout featured tight interior walls and small offices on the perimeter, so 16 Tech decided to gut the building and reinvent the space by opening up its design. Coy said many businesses rent too much office space because of their desire to have conference rooms and other collaborative areas that, for the most part, remain empty.

“[16 Tech’s office spaces] provide a way for companies to lease less space for their employees but also take advantage of shared conference rooms and other areas like that,” Coy said

Attached to the office space through a walking tunnel is a 15,000 square foot maker space branded as Machyne. This annex space was built more than 35 years after the original buildings and serves a more specific purpose than other areas of the facility. Users will walk into the maker space and be greeted by a soft seating and lounge area where they can work on their designs before entering a workshop space. When in the workshop, those who want to develop physical prototypes for products can take advantage of tools like laser printers, waterjet machines, and other tools to bring their ideas to life.

Coy said Machyne users will also come to appreciate the maker space as a setting where they can learn about equipment and understand new design principles even if they are not developing a prototype themselves.

Encouraging Connectivity Through Design
Successful innovation districts thrive in part because of their close connectivity to other knowledge spaces in their areas. Situated in the northwestern edge of downtown Indianapolis, 16 Tech will be surrounded by some of the city’s most prominent research institutions such as the IU School of Medicine, Eli Lilly, Herron School of Arts and Design, and more.
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Albrecht said 16 Tech stands out when compared to similar research districts in other major cities because of its close proximity to the heart of the city.

“One of the benefits of Indy is we have some pretty decently-sized pieces of development area that are still in the core of downtown,” Albrecht said. “That makes a real difference and is a huge benefit.”

Existing pedestrian pathways like the White River Trail and Cultural Trail will eventually run through 16 Tech to connect the campus to the rest of the city. 16 Tech is also planning to construct a bridge across Fall Creek that will link the campus to 10th Street.

Just as design features like open entryways and non-dedicated office spaces in the HqO building serve to enhance connectivity between 16 Tech tenants, extended pedestrian trails and added bridges outside the facility further 16 Tech’s mission of establishing a welcoming space that fosters collaboration and creativity.

Coy said, “What’s exciting about this project is figuring out how to create something that will result in a community that’s open, innovative, creative, and unique.”

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