Research park near DRI closer to reality |

Research park near DRI closer to reality

John Seelmeyer

When the Reno city staff questioned whether a proposed research park near Desert Research Institute would limit the mountain views of nearby residents, DRI officials had an answer.

They fired up a room-sized full-emersion virtual reality laboratory at DRI and shepherded city staffers inside. There, they were surrounded by simulations of the view from a balcony of a nearby apartment building after the research park is developed.

The virtual reality show convinced them.

That sort of high-powered research capability provides an important selling point for the long-awaited Dandini Research Park, a potentially important cog in strengthening the technology sector as a base of the region’s economy.

The 328-acre research park soon will be marketed to companies that want to tap the intellectual capital of DRI researchers and laboratories.

Potential tenants include companies in fields such as environmental science or renewable energy, says Jeff Pickett, managing director of DRI Research Parks Ltd.

A public-private partnership, DRI Research Parks Ltd. is spearheading the development, which surrounds DRI and the Truckee Meadows Community College campus on the steep hills at the north edge of Reno.

About 850,000 square feet of office, research and light industrial space potentially could be developed on five areas where the where the topography is flat enough to allow construction, says Pickett.

Most immediately, Pickett will join with the economic development team of NV Energy to pitch the research park to companies that want to be across Raggio Parkway, within walking distance of DRI’s facilities.

Another initial target for development will be a 31-acre parcel at the southeast corner of the research park that could be home to 360,000 square feet of office, research or light industrial buildings.

Mike Kazmierski, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, says the research park is “is critical to the development and growth of the companies and jobs of the future.”

He says, “DRI is a shining star of opportunity, one of the most important economic development assets in the region and the state. Not only do they already have over 600 highly educated employees that bring in over $60 million in research grants, but they also connect our region to the world with the unique research they conduct on air quality and hydrologic sciences.”

Pickett notes that DRI ranks among the top 20 institutions in the nation in the amount of federal research funding received by its scientific teams a powerful draw to companies who view research as their lifeblood.

But unlike properties near research institutions in locations such as Boston or the San Francisco Bay Area, facilities at Dandini Research Park can be developed relatively inexpensively. In many instances, Pickett says, the costs are about half of comparable locations elsewhere.

Another draw, he says, is the strongly entrepreneurial spirit of DRI’s scientists. They don’t have tenure, and they need to hustle to identify potential sources of grant funding for their work.

“We attract people who are very innovative and very motivated,” Pickett says.

A recently announced $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce for roadway improvements around the research park clears the way for marketing to begin in earnest.

The roadway improvements include upgrades to Raggio Parkway and reconstruction of the intersection of Raggio Parkway and Dandini Boulevard at the west edge of the DRI-TMCC complex.

Creation of the Dandini Research Park literally took an act of Congress.

In 2005, Congress approved the Dandini Research Park Conveyance Act, which removed restrictions that had prohibited commercial development of the land after it was turned over to the state’s higher education system by the federal government in the early 1970s.

In the next five years, DRI Research Parks Ltd. worked to complete a master plan and resolve city zoning issues that might have hamstrung development.

“Now everything is ready,” says Pickett. “We’re ready to roll.”