RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The future of Research Triangle Park relies on a “surgical” focus on the some $2 billion Hub RTP project announced by the Research Triangle Foundation in 2020, said Scott Levitan, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation, this morning at an event organized by the Triangle Business Journal.
“We’re totally focused on Hub,” said Levitan. But that project doesn’t mean that there’s any less importance placed on existing acreage or existing company campus facilities within the some 7,000 acres of land. “Certain conditions are valid,” said Levitan. “It’s going to be very surgical, rather than overall zoning changes.”
And those changes will come collaboratively, explained Levitan, with the Foundation as a convener of companies, counties, and stakeholders who hold an interest in the future vibrancy of the Triangle and of the centrally-located Research Triangle Park.
The Hub RTP effort, said Levitan, is designed not only to serve RTP, but to benefit the entire region. And the Research Triangle Foundation has “bet the farm,” according to Levitan, on the success of the project, which will rely on a $140 million investment even before commercial real estate developers get involved in developing the physical infrastructure that the Foundation estimates will total some $2 billion in investment capital.
Currently, very few acres of property in the Research Triangle Park are or will become available for sale, noted Levitan, which brings up what he called an important issue: the future of how the region is zoned.
Because Research Triangle Park is a “tremendous land resource, located in the heart of the Triangle,” said Levitan, stakeholders in the region’s future will need to think about whether the zoning and entitlements that were put in place during the Park’s founding throughout the 1950s and 1960s and updated in 2014 would remain valid for the future of North Carolina’s economy.
Those changes could be coming soon, and it will be important to “be done with the same kind of vision in the 1950s and 1960s when the Park was founded,” according to Levitan.
“If you think of an AgTech company that maybe wants to run greenhouse lights all night, that is not appropriate to place next to someone’s bedroom,” said Levitan. “But we are going to have a transit stop in RTP, so it makes sense to have transit-oriented development.”
“We need to be ahead of that process,” said Levitan. “All has to be looked at to make it work, and we also have to have the companies and the counties look at that and agree.”
“If it comes together beautifully, it will create enhanced value for the property in RTP,” said Levitan.
Should it come together in an optimal way, noted Levitan, some of the enhanced value derived from developing, appropriately, Research Triangle Park, could be applied to the issues that an expansion of the park community would impart on the community, such as water, sewer, affordable housing, transit, could “play a role in creating revenue that can address those issues,” said Levitan.
The Triangle is known as a collaborative environment for businesses and institutions, noted Levitan. And collaboration will be critical for future success, noted Levitan. It will take leaders across the region to see, and to act as if, the region is one entity, rather than as separate entities, Levitan said.
“Our region has never really functioned as a region,” said Levitan. “We are a little provincial, Raleigh is Raleigh, Durham is Durham, we celebrate the unique character of those regions, but we have an opportunity at RTP, and the strength of world headquarters that we have here, to put together a business voice for our community that can be influential.”