The home of one of Greenville’s most innovative companies is getting a makeover to prepare for its next chapter as the hub of a downtown innovation district. For folks working to grow the life sciences in South Carolina, the building’s facelift is a symbol of the groundbreaking work happening here.
The city’s Design Review Board (DRB) unanimously approved plans that will transform the exterior of Main Street Labs at the corner of Main and Washington. That approval is an exciting step to people like SCBIO CEO, James Chappell. He has been working with the developers, the City of Greenville, and the building’s anchor tenant to attract life science innovators and companies that support them to this space in the heart of the Central Business District.
The state Department of Commerce reports there are about 1,000 life science companies currently in South Carolina. The growth rate of the industry is double what it is in the southeast region. Here in the upstate, there are 455 life sciences companies. Chappell says Main Street Labs is a real-world example of those industry growth stats.
Chappell says plans are in the works for SCBIO to have a presence at Main Street Labs. The organization is the voice of life sciences in South Carolina, and Chappell says he’d like to see a supportive community grow out of this space. He said SCBIO hopes to host events there that showcase innovative companies, provide networking opportunities, and facilitate roundtables for Chief Scientific Officers and CEOs.
“They could talk about the things they are doing, potential partnerships, or how to get past the roadblocks all of these growing companies face,” Chappell said.
Groundbreaking cancer research company, Kiyatec, is one of those growing companies. CEO Matt Gevaert announced last winter that his company was moving its lab and offices into the 100,000 square foot building — adding nearly 100 new jobs and expanding the company’s drug development and testing services.
In making the move downtown to anchor Main Street Labs, Gevaert, a trailblazer in his field, became a larger part of Greenville’s story – a lead character in an exciting chapter about innovation, evolution, and entrepreneurship.
As the biotech hub in downtown Greenville takes shape, James Chappell says setting up shop along with Kiyatec and other industry innovators could increase a company’s odds for success. He says growth-stage companies based there would have a built-in support system, possibilities for partnerships, and access to nearby research universities.
The cost also might be a big selling point. Compared to other cities across the country, and even some in South Carolina, square footage in Greenville is a bargain. Economic development supporters of Main Street Labs compared average rent for this kind of space in several cities. In San Francisco, a company might pay $105 per square foot. In Charleston, the cost goes down to about $60 a square foot. Rent at Main Street Labs is just half that – $30 per square foot.
Developers have drawn up floor plans for lab and office space available for lease inside the building that is equipped with backup power, flexible workspaces, and a shared shipping and delivery area. It’s hard to beat the location for the quality-of-life people enjoy just outside the buildings downtown. Main Street Labs is within walking distance of more than 100 restaurants, hotels, a minor league ballpark, a 17,000-seat arena, and a 23-mile biking and walking trail.
The exterior renovation plans the DRB approved for the Main Street Labs are extensive. The building’s current entrance on Main Street will be the primary access point for tenants of the innovation hub. Changes to that section of the building include painting the stucco a soft white, a subtle link to the innovative lab work going on inside. A variety of building materials and paint colors will provide visible separation between the floors of the lab, office, and retail space.
All the changes that are about to happen here are steps toward an exciting future for innovation in downtown Greenville. James Chappell’s vision for Main Street Labs includes a space that would expose young talent to careers they’ve never heard of in the life sciences. He envisions an SCBIO learning lab that provides hands-on experiences to show high school students they don’t have to become medical doctors to be successful in his industry. According to SCBIO stats, the average annual wage of more than $87,000 — that’s 79% higher than the overall average annual income in the state.
Building a workforce pipeline and a biotech innovation district is a team effort involving a lot of partnerships and collaboration. Once the renovation of Main Street Labs is complete, the like-new building on a busy corner in downtown Greenville will serve as a beacon for other companies looking to change the world alongside industry trailblazer, Kiyatec.