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Back to the Future at the 1819 Hub

The Cincinnati Innovation District brings academic, corporate, and research worlds under one roof. And they’ll soon open three more facilities nearby.

by John Fox

The 1819 Innovation Hub is a renovated Sears department store reflecting the University of Cincinnati’s past, present, and future. The 100,000-square-foot building, named for the year UC was founded, is the nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District being developed near the I-71 interchange with Martin Luther King Boulevard—just a few blocks from UC’s campus.

Corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and UC students and faculty mix every day in the district. Altafiber/Cincinnati Bell, Cincinnati Insurance, Fifth Third Bank, Kroger, and Procter & Gamble are among the co-located companies using their 1819 Hub spaces to work on innovation projects and interact with UC students and faculty. UC programs from business to engineering to DAAP use the building for classes or events, and the Venture Lab helps students and others start new companies from scratch by connecting them with talent and funding. Entrepreneurs-in-residence help create business models, go-to-market strategies, roadmaps for product development, and funding plans.

UC’s Office of Innovation, headed by Chief Innovation Officer David Adams, manages the 1819 Hub and led creation of the Cincinnati Innovation District. Besides this building, the district will include the Digital Futures complex and The Beacon nearby. The Beacon will serve as an incubator for minority-led startups and headquarters for Lightship Foundation, which is now based at the 1819 Hub. The first two Digital Futures buildings will open this summer.

The hub’s 12,000-square-foot makerspace is now open to the public in addition to UC students/faculty and district partners. Full-time staff and student workers are on hand to help train users on the equipment and to supervise activity. A new Esports Innovation Lab opens this summer.

Seventy percent of Digital Futures Building 1 will be occupied by research labs, many of them moving from UC’s campus, with the remaining space managed by the Cincinnati Innovation District for expansion needs and for new strategic partners. Building 2 will have 180,000-square-feet of office and research space for lease. Future plans for the adjacent space include a hotel and possible mixed-use development.