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Plant Science Innovation District coming to Creve Coeur

Plant Science Innovation District
(Courtesy St. Louis Economic Development Partnership)

St. Louis is attracting more life science companies and startups.

Now planning is underway for a 575-acre innovation district that will be anchored by the DonaldDanforthPlant Science Center, Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park, and Helix Center Biotech Incubator.

The district will help cement St. Louis as a life science hub and better attract companies and employees, according to Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer of the Danforth Center and president of BRDG Park.

"If they’ve thought of St. Louis, they might not have a great image. We want to change that," Fiorello said, "so they can say: 'Wow, these people are on the front end of something special. I want to be part of it.'"

A community open house will take place Tuesday at the Danforth Center from 6-8 p.m. to give the public a chance to share ideas on the district.

Urban planner Ayers Saint Gross, which helped create the Cortex Innovation District, is developing the master plan for the district. Principal Kevin Petersen said they’ll be looking to make better connections between the anchor organizations and the community.

"You can’t physically walk to the Helix Center [from Danforth Plant Science Center] and what could be a two-minute walk is a 10-minute drive," he said.

The long-term plan will address how to improve public transportation and create a more walkable and bike-friendly environment. Petersen said the plan also will include places where employees and community members can eat and play.

"When companies are looking to locate in areas, or people are looking to go to places to work, I think those are amenities are important to attracting talented people to come," he said.

The development of the master plan will be paid for through a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce that St. Louis County won. County Executive Steve Stenger said the district will strengthen the area as a life science capital.

"The plant science research and commercialization industry is a linchpin of our future economy," Stenger said in a statement.

The county is partnering with the anchor organizations, along with the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, the city ofCreveCoeur, and Wexford Science & Technology. The master plan is expected to be released in June.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.