W.M. Jordan Company

Lifestyle Drives Innovation at Newport News Tech Center

November 6, 2015


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of The Voice, a HRACRE publication.

By: Skip Smith, Vice President of Development, and
Cheryl Browne, Creative Brand Manager of W. M. Jordan Company

The intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Oyster Point Road is one of the busiest corners in the Commonwealth. John Lawson, President and CEO of W. M. Jordan Company, bought the land, intending to hold it for a new ion collider needed by adjacent Jefferson Labs. As time passed, John began considering the possibilities for a corporate research park that builds on the talent, research, high-speed IT infrastructure and technology at Jefferson Labs. His vision for a hybrid entrepreneurial ecosystem is being realized today through the Tech Center Research Park.

John based his idea on the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, one of the top 10 corporate research parks in the world. Tech Center is based on an already successful model that capitalizes on the enormous resources unique to Hampton Roads -Jefferson Labs, NASA, and Newport News Shipbuilding, to name a few. Joe Meredith, President of the VTCRC, spent a considerable amount of time helping us set up the program and continues to advise us as we move forward.

John’s vision creates a place where entrepreneurs can work with scientists developing cutting-edge technologies at nearby science centers to bring new products to market. Tech Center at Oyster Point is really an Innovation District, a place where science and business meet to create something new.

The research park provides more than just physical office space. Jeffery Johnson, Director of Tech Center at Oyster Point, manages the research facilities at the new complex. Jeff vets potential tenants to see if they have a viable product to develop.

Once a good fit is found, tenants have access to resources that help them develop their business. The program, called KnowledgeWorks, might pair a retired CEO of a large company with an upstart entrepreneur to help him or her with market research, competitive analysis or building a business plan.

The physical spaces will offer higher speed internet access and access to E-Lite, a collaborative technology network utilized by a consortium of local research institutions. We understand that collaboration is something that happens over time. While the research park is the impetus of everything, the human connection is the key to its success.

Tech Center is designed to encourage interaction through spaces that integrate different aspects of a person’s daily life. That’s why we have luxury apartments under construction and a retail center that offers everything from a grocery store to a fitness center. It’s really a lifestyle center designed to promote networking and collaboration.

The concept is supported by research. The Brookings Institute has studied successful Innovation District models, where firms work together in collaborative spaces and environments all within walking distance of retail shops, residences and fitness complexes. Tech Center offers sandwich and coffee shops, places to dine, and many places to simply meet and talk while remaining connected via high-speed wireless available across the entire complex. Amenities include a bocce ball court, playground and ice skating rink; places where people can walk, think, and do things outside.

Our focus on health and wellness provides plenty of green space with gathering areas. People working in the offices can play organized team sports on the Drill Field, a multi-purpose outdoor space designed for soccer and lacrosse. A large green space in the middle of the retail center can be used for a variety of purposes; a Farmer’s Market in summer and an ice skating rink in winter. A working mother can pick up a few groceries at Whole Foods, shop for the kids at Carter’s OshKosh, do her banking, and even take little Johnny to an urgent care center if he sprains his ankle during soccer practice – all within a 20-minute walk from where she parked her car.

The retail portion of the project is nearing completion. A side benefit to the City of Newport News is that several of the surrounding businesses have upgraded their facilities to complement Tech Center. In fact, one of the adjacent apartment complexes spruced up their grounds and rebranded with Tech Center in their name.

The community is getting involved, as well. CHKD is sponsoring the playground and the Mariners’ Museum is sponsoring public art. This new lifestyle center will help attract and retain the types of tenants we hope to engage for the research park, those that will drive economic development. Between the lifestyle amenities, first-class office space, and access to knowledge and human capital, we are on the cusp of realizing Tech Center’s true potential.

by C.J. “Skip” Smith, III, Vice President of Development, W.M. Jordan Company, (757) 596-6341, ssmith@wmjordan.com, and Cheryl Browne, Creative Brand Manager of W. M. Jordan Company, (757) 596-6341, cbrowne@wmjordan.com.