LOWELL -- The former Freudenberg Nonwovens mill building in the city's Hamilton Canal District was once home to the textile manufacturing that helped Lowell lead the industrial revolution.
Gov. Deval Patrick joined UMass Lowell, state and city officials at 110 Canal St. on Thursday to announce a new UMass Lowell innovation center will occupy two floors of the downtown building, with the hope that the center will spur the next wave of business innovation in the city and region.
Patrick also announced that the state is investing an additional $1 million to help complete the construction of the 55,000 square foot commercial building.
"I very much believe as a pro-growth progressive in the importance of economic growth, not for its own sake ... but for the sake of expanding opportunity," Patrick said. "We have to be about creating opportunity in every part of our commonwealth."
The governor also cast the announcement as part of his administration's ongoing efforts to make sure businesses and employees that are in the innovation sector have the tools to stay and grow in Lowell, the Merrimack Valley and across the state.
"That is the context for why $1 million makes a difference," Patrick said. "Why it's important here in and Lowell throughout the commonwealth."
UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan thanked the governor and his administration for helping make the new innovation center a reality.
"It will provide a much-needed innovation space for start-up companies, expanding beyond just the medical device industry, by supporting other start-up companies, including robotics, flexible electronics, and clean tech," Meehan said.
"This site will provide space for as many as 40 early-stage entrepreneurs to test products and business concepts, to develop prototypes, raise funds and launch successful and high-growth potential businesses."
Meehan said the university will lease the two floors from Trinity Financial, the owner of the building and the company contracted by the city to redevelop the 15-acre downtown canal district. The university's occupancy of the space will result in $40,000 in annual real-estate taxes to the city.
The university will be the first tenants in the building that was rehabbed on-spec, or without tenants lined up.
James Keefe, president of Trinity Financial, thanked Patrick for the state's confidence in the district and Meehan for the university's commitment. Keefe said the new innovation space in 110 Canal St. is what the Hamilton Canal District is all about: respecting the glory of the past, while laying the groundwork for the future.
"At this very place, we stand at the confluence of three 19th century canals, which drove what was then a state-of-the-art technology, a manufacturing system that activated over a million square feet of mills and employed tens of thousands of people," Keefe said.
"Here we are in 2014 announcing plans for a state-of-the art facility that will drive manufacturing in the 21st century, achieving or maybe even exceeding the heights that were accomplished then."
Prior to the 110 Canal Street announcement, Patrick toured other areas of the Hamilton Canal District, including the Counting House Lofts and Mill No. 5.
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