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Plans accelerate for first Innovation Park building

Feb. 14, 2012

Voice recognition, human bones' reactions to implants and prosthetics and transistors that can sense items in air such as contaminants are just some of the sophisticated research slated for the biomedical and engineering technology incubator that will be the first building constructed at Innovation Park.

Representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Real Estate Foundation and Eppstein Uhen Architects introduced the Innovation Accelerator to the Plan Commission on Monday night. The proposed project starts with a 25,000-square-foot building and provides space for a 9,000-square-foot expansion on a two-acre parcel at 9700 Watertown Plank Road, just north of the Milwaukee County Parks Administration Building.

The commission unanimously supported the plans.

"Technology and development like this is fantastic," said Alderman Don Birschel, who serves on the commission. "To have something like this in the Milwaukee area is really a feather in our cap."

The city and foundation received a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build the accelerator, which will offer lab and office space, a two-story lobby and conference rooms.

Expensive, high-tech equipment for creating prototypes will be housed there, said project architect Cliff Goodhart. For example, a technology called "centering" will build objects out of powdered metal rather than cutting down materials to fit a design.

"The accelerator project will really be bridging innovators and researchers," he said.

The work that happens in the accelerator will spur new businesses that will want to locate on the campus and bring medical products and treatments to facilities on the medical campus across the street, Goodhart added.

A need for additional space is pretty much inevitable as all but 10 percent of the initial 25,000 square feet has already been promised to four or five different research groups from UWM, said Curt Stang, foundation chief operating officer.

Those groups have already been working closely with the facilities like Froedtert Hospital and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

"That was really the criteria - groups that already had strong ties," Stang said.

The accelerator will focus on biomedical and bioengineering research, but toxic chemicals and elevated biohazard risks are not anticipated, said Goodhart, easing at least one commissioner's concerns.

"If we're building it right here in Wauwatosa, we better make sure it's safe, Commissioner Jody Lowe said.

The signage on the building is likely to exceed what the sign code allows and commission agreed the significance of the project lends itself for an exception. Drawings showed large vinyl graphics inside the windows that says "Innovation" on second story and "Accelerator" on the lower level.

The building plans received approval from the Design Review Board on Feb. 2. The plans next go to the Community Development Committee on Feb. 28.

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