Supercomputing Labs May Add Further Growth to the West Loop

February 05, 2013

Merchandise Mart and BridgeIt’s no secret that the River North neighborhood has become a technological hot spot, and it looks as if the West Loop may soon be following suit.

Developers of the University of Illinois UILabs, which will offer working space for digital and technology entrepreneurs, have their sights set on the West Loop neighborhood. The founders have yet to pick a specific location, but are currently scoping out three or four downtown sites, and the lab may even take up multiple locations. One prospective area up for grabs is the 1871 Merchandise Mart tech center, which boasts 50,000 square feet of space.

The UI Labs could eventually have an endowment worth hundreds of millions, and would attract world-class researchers to Chicago in addition to creating a variety of jobs. Employees at the lab will work on solving problems and challenges related to transportation, food production and health care technology.

The lab would be established as a non-profit center, and will receive its funding from private donors, strategic partnerships and grants.

Over the past few months, Chicago has been trying to increase its reputation as an IT and technological center. Last fall, Mayor Emanuel launched a plan to make Chicago one of the most ‘connected cities’ in the entire world, with the hopes that a strong broadband network will help improve the Chicago economy.

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