Editor’s note: This is the lattest in a series of in-depth reports about startup-focused hubs across the Triangle region. The Startup Guide is an exclusive feature from WRAL TechWire designed to help entrepreneurs launch and grow entrepreneurial companies. These reports are being written by WRAL TechWire contributor Sarah Glova. Watch for more reports in coming weeks as part of our Startup Monday packages.
CHAPEL HILL – Over 100 community members signed up to tour the under-construction Innovate Carolina Junction building last week. The innovation hub is being developed in the center of downtown Chapel Hill at 137 E. Franklin Street.
The six-story building is still an active construction site. Hard hat tours were provided (and are still available upon request). But Tuesday’s event was held on the 6th floor, in what the Innovate Carolina team calls “the annex.”
“We are really excited for you to see this temporary space, which we are referring to as ‘the annex’ because it is so small compared to the permanent space,” said Kimi Yingling, Assistant Director of Innovation Hubs at Innovate Carolina, during her welcome address.
Last fall, UNC’s Director of Economic Development and Innovation Hubs, Sheryl Waddell, shared with WRAL TechWire that the building would open in spring 2023. But at Tuesday’s event, Waddell updated the community on the timeline.
“We’re gonna be opening in the end of July, but the grand opening will be in the September timeframe,” said Waddell in her comments.
Also under construction is a new six-story parking deck, adjacent to the Innovate Carolina Junction building. According to Waddell, that 1100-space garage will be available in February 2024.
What is the Junction?
“The Innovation Hub, or the Junction, is actually the anchor to a lot of development that’s either, A, it’s just getting started or B, it will be started,” said Waddell in her comments. “So the hub itself, or the Junction, of the six floors, we will be taking the first two, which is the ground floor and the first floor, and we’re already starting to talk to Grubb Properties, who is the owner of the building, about, potentially, the second floor.”
Innovate Carolina, once officially known as the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, is UNC-Chapel Hill’s department for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development. The department creates “collisions,” said Waddell, between the university, the city and state, and industry.
“What we’re looking to do is open the doors to founders, open the doors to industry, open the doors to investors, open the doors to social entrepreneurs, corporate, and people who are really looking to make a difference in the world, and that is a key differentiator to the Junction,” said Waddell in her comments.
The Innovate Carolina space in the Junction will be a coworking hub, with open coworking, private desks, and private offices. There will also be a coffee shop and small outdoor terrace.
“We wanted to make sure it was inviting and not sterile or too industrial,” said Sarah Daniels, Creative and Brand Lead for Office of Innovate Carolina, when I spoke with her after the event. “We wanted it to be comfortable, a place that you would want to spend your time.”
For a virtual tour of the space, view or click on this QR code from UNC Innovation Hub: