When Scott Levitan was named the chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Foundation, he said his No. 1 priority was to get the foundation’s ambitious Park Center project underway.
On Thursday, the foundation, the not-for-profit that manages Research Triangle Park, made significant strides in doing just that, signing an agreement for Willard Retail to build a “town center” on 12 acres within RTP.
The town center development will serve as the core of the Park Center project, which was spearheaded by Levitan’s predecessor Bob Geolas. Park Center was meant to activate RTP as being something more than a collection of private corporate campuses that people come to only for work. Research Triangle Park currently is home to around 50,000 workers and 240 companies, including IBM, GlaxoSmithKline and Cisco.
“(Park Center) is transforming a park that has been thriving for 60 years, but things have evolved,” Levitan told The News & Observer in 2017, explaining why the project was necessary. “It’s very important that we provide all the amenities that the current workforce needs to attract and retain talent at the park ... so it stays relevant for the next 60 years.”
Park Center hopes to make the park more of a destination by adding more than 1,000 residential units, retail space, a hotel, a conference center and more than 1 million square feet of office space. Park Center would replace around 100 acres of an aging office park at N.C. 54 and Davis Drive that the foundation took over a several years ago.
The project was meant to get underway several years ago, but was delayed numerous times, as the foundation tried to find a developer. Park Center has been financed by several parties, including Durham County, which has pledged $20 million toward it.
“The Research Triangle Foundation has anticipated this project for many years, and we know that the Willard team is the group that will deliver on the promise of this site,” Levitan said in a statement. “RTF, Durham County, and all of the companies in (the park) are contributing to rebuilding the mixed-use core of RTP to serve the community and Triangle Region.”
Willard’s 150,000-square-foot “town center” development is expected to include a grocery store, health club, and a distinctive mix of restaurants and small shops, according to the statement released by real estate firm CBRE. CBRE will handle leasing for the project.
The development will also have outdoor public spaces that will host events like yoga classes, movie nights and live music.
Willard, a commercial real estate firm out of Maryland, is expected to complete construction by the end of 2020.