Research Triangle Park started blooming as a destination for technology giants more than 50 years ago. But now, many people want it to be more than just a place to work.

Leaders of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, managers of Research Triangle Park, started talking about a master plan of change three years ago. They’ve lined up permits, identified locations and, most importantly, secured the money to make it happen.

“Every product has to innovate to stay competitive. It’s time for us to innovate,” said Bob Geolas, RTF president and CEO.

Geolas has described Park Center as “a new kind of place” that combines living and working space. “It’s about a collaborative commons place where people can share ideas,” he said.

The plan was developed with feedback from Research Triangle Park companies, many of them smaller than the well-known IBM, which lack cafeterias and other on-site amenities. The strategic plan for RTP calls for mixed-use housing, retail and business.

“We wanted a place that was authentic and genuine to us, Geolas said.

Park Center, off Interstate 40 and Davis Drive, will blend acres of natural public space with restaurants, shops, homes and an amphitheater. 

A public/private partnership makes this all possible. On Thursday Geolas announced that RTP had secured $50 million dollars, much of it from Durham County.

“It’s really a long-awaited opportunity,” said Durham County Commissioner Michael Page. “It’s really going to create so much different space for Durham County and really just a whole new environment.”

Work will begin in January. The entire project could total billions of dollars of investment over multiple phases. Geolas said he expects to see the vision start to take shape over the next three to five years.

“We know if we don’t innovate, we will be in trouble,” he said. “This is the beginning of that innovation. Nothing will stop us.”