What's that new University of Cincinnati building near the MLK exit? | Going up
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The basics of the University of Cincinnati's Digital Futures Complex
Address: 3080 Exploration Ave., Avondale
Building type: Office/research, ground-up construction
Developer/contractor/architect: Terrex, Messer Construction Co. and GBBN
Size: Digital Futures Building (189,000 square feet, 6 stories); Digital Futures 2 Office Building (180,000 square feet, 6 stories)
What you need to know about Digital Futures: It's a research campus
If you've ever driven northbound on Interstate 71 and seen a grey, rectangular building with a vertical sign reading "Next Lives Here," you're looking at the University of Cincinnati's Digital Futures Complex. This $200 million development is one of many new structures coming soon to the Cincinnati Innovation District, a 65-acre research district and tech center from Uptown Consortium. Following in the footsteps of the newly-opened 1819 Innovation Hub next door, this building is anchored by UC's Office of Research and boasts over 20 lab spaces for automotive engineering, advanced mobility, hypersonics, cryptoeconomics and medical diagnostics, among other departments. Several other floors are dedicated tolocal Cincinnati nonprofits: Green Umbrella, Mayerson Academy, the Leadership Council and Elementz.
The 8.25-acre complex is slated to be UC's main off-campus collaboration space with community groups, nonprofits, startups and other research departments, according to UC's vice president for research Patrick Limbach. It's not meant to provide a space for what Limbach called the "Switzerland of UC".
"It will be a place for faculty to come and collaborate on research outside of their respective colleges," he said during a tour of the project.
Architecture of Digital Futures: Contemporary academic
The main six-story Digital Futures building is wrapped in grey metal and glass and punctuated by perforated vertical sun shades that reduce heat on the inside. The building provides sweeping views of Uptown from almost every room but also reduces noise from the roadways surrounding it. It is the first commercial office building in Ohio to receive a 2-star Fitwell certification, a 3-star rating system that measures a building's impact on human health. The adjacent office building features dark gray metal panels and terracotta siding,
providing a darker contrast to the brighter architecture of Digital Futures.
What goes on inside the Digital Futures building is arguably much more complicated than the building itself. Drones and robotics studies are conducted in a two-story high-bay facility (a vertical space that spans a small section of the first-floor parking garage and the building's ground floor), while augmented, virtual and mixed reality simulation areas aid in analyzing human performance. A force plate, a mechanical sensing platform that measures movement, takes up nearly an entire room on one of the upper floors.
UC's research is expected to evolve and the building is ready for that, according to Chad Burke, lead architect on the project. "We designed the labs and offices with maximum flexibility now so they can accommodate different groups and adapt with new uses technologies over time."
How you can see the inside
Most of the building is private. There is a cafe and rentable community space in the Digital Futures Building. The adjacent office building is private.
Here's where the project stands and what's ahead
Phase 1: Digital Futures and DF 2 office buildings completed in fall 2022; 160-room hotel set to begin construction in 2023. Leasing for the DF 2 building is now open. Contact Rusty Meyers at JLL for info: 513-252-2158 Phase 2: 120,000-200,000 square foot, 8-story office building to be decided Phase 3: Mixed-use
residential and retail to be decided
What locals think about the Digital Futures Complex
In 2019, The Enquirer reported that the Uptown area was the second-largest employment hub in Greater Cincinnati outside of downtown. Now, the new area leader, Northern Kentucky's Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, includes just 10,700 jobs more than Uptown, according to the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The Digital Futures Complex and Cincinnati Innovation District are slated to spur further development and add 7,500 jobs in the Uptown area, which includes Avondale, Clifton, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Corryville and Mt. Auburn.
The Enquirer reported in early September 2022 that the rate of gentrification surrounding the Cincinnati Innovation Corridor, which includes the growing 3.75-mile Wasson Way trail, has some Avondale residents worried. Both Uptown Consortium and Digital Futures staff told the Enquirer separately that involving locals in the development has been key. "We asked ourselves from the beginning," said Jennifer Krivickas, vice president of programs and initiatives at UC's Office of Research, "'how might we as a university being located in a new area surrounded by new residents engage with the things they value?"
Tony Morris, president of the Avondale Community Council, for example, said locals are eager for neighborhood kids to be exposed to the research and technology happening at the complex. One of the ways they are addressing this is by working with the Uptown Consortium and Digital Futures on a study of digital access and inclusion in Avondale.
How to get involved at Digital Futures
To book space in the Digital Futures building, fill out this form. You can also tour the project on Mondays at 3p.m. Send a message here to reserve your spot. Anyone or any company that's interested in partnering with the Digital Futures Consortium, accessing the lab spaces, learning more about the applied research or simply wants to sign up for a regular newsletter about the work happening at Digital Futures is welcome to get in touch with UC's Office of Research.
Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse opened a new outpost in the Digital Futures building on the first floor. It is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
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Original article posted on October 6, 2022 by the Cincinnati Business Courier.