Research Triangle Park, United States
With history of robust innovation, R&D and cutting-edge entrepreneurship, there were ample success stories at RTP, but one thing was always missing: a vibrant community to intertwine into this iconic place. Although RTP could stand on its own legacy, it was without a beating heart and in need of a "downtown" district.
Purpose of the solution
Since the inception of Research Triangle Park (RTP), the Research Triangle Foundation (the Foundation; stewards of RTP), knew that RTP must adapt and evolve to stay competitive. Given its reputation as America's largest research park, and history of innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship, there were ample success stories but one thing was always missing: a vibrant community to intertwine into this iconic place. Although RTP could stand on its own legacy, it was without a beating heart and in need of a "downtown" district. This unique evolution is segmented in spurts of growth, leading to the vision of its future with Hub RTP. While the Park's story starts with the revitalization of a former IBM campus known as Frontier RTP, and a shipping container site known as Boxyard, the Foundation always envisioned transformative growth on a grand scale with a bold vision to repurpose 100 acres into RTP's new, vibrant downtown. With Frontier RTP leading, Boxyard RTP followed as a beta-test of its long-term vision and future, Hub RTP, each providing unique solutions, first-of-its-kind services, with environmentally sustainable and diverse commitments.
Boxyard arose as the first social district of its kind. In true inventive fashion, RTP handpicked each vendor for Boxyard RTP from its own backyard, bringing a diversified cohort of local, culturally diverse entrepreneurs within food, beverage, retail, and performing arts. The 14 vendors come from different backgrounds, ranging from fine dining to food trucks. This also gave these emerging entrepreneurs their first chance at a bricks-and-mortar location without the overhead cost and collateral that comes with opening a storefront, given the $10 million investment from the Research Triangle Foundation, which addressed all the early needs of the entrepreneurs (ex: kitchen, furnishings, upfitting, etc) to reduce risks endemic to early-stage growth and increase the chances of success. While the structure was filled with the vibrancy of local entrepreneurs, its exterior was also built for show: a local minority artist turned a wall into a breathtaking mural on discovery, community, and history within the Triangle. The Foundation has also committed to supporting environmentally-friendly transportation options with RTP Connect, a subsidized Lyft program within RTP with stops at Boxyard.
What is innovative about it?
This project has been nothing but innovative. Whether you look at the diversity of the entrepreneurs, community inclusion, equity in the access, or the sustainability and eco-friendly aspect, it embodies innovative and inclusive culture. To have a locally-driven social district in the center of a research park is ingenious. We believe in this concept and so do our partners at NC IDEA, a local entrepreneurial philanthropy that partnered on a concept for “PopBox”, a 320-square-foot shipping container within Boxyard RTP on the principles of propelling BIPOC and woman-owned retail concepts back into the market after COVID-19. Grantees are awarded $5,000 and temporary space across Boxyard RTP’s award-winning venue space. On the weekends, pop-up markets are held in the parking lot to support local entrepreneurs outside of the Boxyard and a variety of grass-roots organizations. With local live music playing four nights per week, and pop-up fitness classes on Saturday mornings, we’ve found a way to dive into every niche of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to feed inclusion and equitable access within RTP.