The Innovative Innovation Center

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

innovation_center_0816 The Innovation Center of Vermont exterior
Photo: Pomerleau Real Estate

It’s been a long time since we last published one of our “Building Directory” stories. These pieces have traditionally highlighted exceptional commercial spaces, often involving creative reuse of historic properties. One such elegant reuse is The Innovation Center of Vermont on Lakeside Avenue in Burlington.

The building, now listed on the Vermont State Register of Historic Places, was erected in 1894 as home to the Queen City Cotton Mill, which ceased production in 1937 and was vacant until 1941, according to a piece called “Lakeside Avenue Manufacturing” by Kyle Obenauer on the University of Vermont website. E.B. and A.C. Whiting Co. bought it and made latex fiber there until the U.S. Government seized it in 1943 for wartime production. Bell Aircraft, a tenant, bought the building in 1946 and sold it to General Electric within a few months.

GE manufactured various products there, including the company’s Gatling guns. In the 1990s, Martin Marietta bought GE’s aerospace division, merged with Lockheed Martin, and in 1997 the property was sold to General Dynamics. After General Dynamics’s focus evolved from armament production to technology, its operations moved to space owned by IBM in Williston.

A lot of planning went into The Innovation Center’s design. Dramatic tenant spaces feature high ceilings, loads of natural light, and the exposed wood and classic mill brickwork you might expect in a historic structure. It’s behind the scenes that The Innovation Center really shines.

veic_town_center_0816 VEIC Town Center
Photo: Fritz Sentflever

An on-site geothermal well provides “energy-free” cooling year-round, heat is provided by natural gas and ultra-efficient boilers, and temperature requirements are monitored by a complex computer sensing system, based on outside air and humidity. An emergency generator means uninterrupted connectivity. And believe it or not, the building has a 152-foot chimney to broadcast microwave backup data transmissions, if needed.

The Innovation Center is owned by Fortieth Burlington LLC and managed by Gilbane Development Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, which has an on-site property manager. Yves Bradley of Pomerleau Real Estate is the exclusive leasing agent. The building is about 94 percent filled.

“It’s really, really fun to sell this space,” says Bradley. “It’s the first time in a very long time that there’s been a large-scale property with associated parking. It’s proved there was some pent-up demand for just that kind of space.

“We had small mill spaces, but no big ones with free parking. That building also offered a lot of high-tech sophistication in its internal systems above and beyond what the market has or had, so it’s a perfect fusion of high-tech and historic exposed beams, hardwood floors, brickwork, etc.”

The major benefits center on the energy efficiency. “We have a 99 percent Energy Star rating, which is fantastic for a building built in 1894. Then geothermal cooling is pretty remarkable — there’s an aquifer about 350 feet down that provides 53-degree water year-round. We use that for free cooling in the warmer months, then for the shoulder months we run the 80-degree water, which is being heated through what’s called a plate frame heat exchanger, through a loop surrounded by the 53-degree water, so it sheds load. In other words, the system doesn’t have to work as hard to re-cool that water.”

innovation_wayfinding_0816 Way-finding signage
Photo: Fritz Sentflever

Bradley mentions the 350 kW backup generator and the on-site amenities: a café; public art curated by the South End Area Business Association and rotated on a quarterly basis; an onsite fitness center that costs $12 a month for building tenants and has on-site locker rooms, a trainer, and classes. “So you can do business, eat, work out, get coffee, have a massage, and pay your taxes,” he quips, this last because the IRS has an office there.

Smith Buckley Architects in Burlington was hired to help transform the building into a multi-tenant facility, and continues to support space planning and work with prospective tenants, says Cleary Buckley, a partner in the firm.

cleary-buckley_0816 Cleary Buckley
Photo: Smith Buckley Architects

Technically, Buckley says, it was a challenge to convert the building to multi-tenant use. “The decor and office planning was something people were doing in the ’70s, but the whole building had dropped ceilings, tired old finishes, and the planning approach had been to put all the offices on the outside with the windows, and inside were these tall cubicles with no access to natural light. To be blunt, it was not a pleasant place to work unless you had the corner office.

“For the conversion,” he continues, “you had to create stand-alone electrical and mechanical systems for each tenant. Another big part of what we were trying to do was open it up, get more light, restore some of the character of the old mill building, and give it a fresher, more contemporary feel.”

The Tenants

Vermont Energy Investment Corp. (VEIC). Incorporated in 1986 to promote and encourage the conservation of natural resources and reducing energy costs for consumers, the organization is also the parent of Efficiency Vermont. One of the largest tenants, VEIC uses 50,000 square feet. “We loved the idea of being in a facility that had a really strong infrastructure to help us with our data needs,” says Scott Johnstone, VEIC’s executive director. “We do a lot of work with big data, and this building has a good pipeline for data. It’s great to be with other innovative partners in the building. And we love being in a town center. Since we’re in the business of dealing with energy, land-use patterns matter a lot. And it makes for a more robust space for our staff, being close to food and shopping and fun.” The hope is to put a solar system on the roof.

veic_offices_0816 VEIC offices
Photo: Shayne Lynn

Internal Revenue Service. The taxpayer assistance office, on the second floor, moved here in January 2013 from its Main Street offices.

Veterans Affairs. The VA’s outpatient Lakeside clinic is in suite 260. In July, The UVM Medical Center recently announced that third- and fourth-year psychiatry residents will train with veterans at this clinic.

va_office_0816 VA outpatient Lakeside Clinic
Photo: Fritz Sentflever

UVM Medical Center Community Health Improvement. This program serves the community with a wide variety of health, wellness, and safety programs such as free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, a child passenger safety seat program, employer health management, and health assistance, which allows for affordable health care and medications for the underinsured or uninsured.

All Wellness Physical Therapy & Pilates. This on-site fitness center that serves “all ages, all bodies, and all abilities” also shares space with Darren Maynard, a certified acupuncturist, and Karla Henning, a certified massage therapist and health coach.

University of Vermont. Home of UVM’s Department of Alumni Relations.

Hagan, Rinehart & Connolly Pediatricians. Joseph Hagan Jr., M.D., FAAP, is a clinical professor in pediatrics at The UVM College of Medicine and the Vermont Children’s Hospital. Jill Rinehart, M.D., FAAP, is part of Vermont’s Blueprint for Health and works on a national advisory group put together by the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children to create guidelines for a “Shared Plan for Care” of children with special health care needs. Gregory Connolly, M.D., FAAP, is a Burlington native who studied at The UVM College of Medicine and did his residency at the Maine Medical Center, where he was awarded a 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics Special Recognition for his commitment to residency education. He co-chairs the Vermont Children’s Hospital’s newborn nursery committee.

uvmmc_0816 UVMMC Community Health Improvement
Photo: Shayne Lynn

Scout Café. This satellite of Scout & Co. is open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a full breakfast and lunch menu. “Full” means breakfast tacos and waffles to bahn mi and cheeseburgers. The chef is Owen Hoppe. This is The Innovation Center’s other 50,000-square-foot tenant. When we wrote about this company in 2006, co-founder Mark Bonfigli was president and CEO. In 2013, the company was acquired by Dealertrack Technologies, which was acquired in 2015 by Cox Automotive, a privately held international digital marketing company. Co-founder Rick Gibbs became president of in 2012, and is now executive vice president and chief product officer for Cox. According to Yves Bradley, took over Building 41 about two and a half years ago, and moved into additional square footage in the main building last year.

yves-bradley-1014-bp Yves Bradley, Pomerleau
Photo: Brad Pettengill

Manchester Specialty. This branch office of a national property and casualty programs platform is led by William Thompson, CIC, the former principal of Smith, Bell & Thompson in Burlington.

Cap Site/HIMSS. Blain Newton, senior vice president and chief operating officer of HIMSS Analytics is the former CEO of CapSite, a Burlington-based health care technology research and advisory firm that was acquired by HIMSS Analytics, a Chicago-based nonprofit. HIMSS stands for Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society. It provides “guidance and market intelligence solutions ... to enable better health through the use of IT.”

Mark E. Naud, Attorney at Law. A law office, at The Innovation Center since 2013.

Green Mountain Software Corp. Provides software engineering services and custom mobile app development. Founded by Lou Krieg and Ann Pettyjohn in 1993, just after Apple introduced the Newton MessagePad. Krieg is president and Pettyjohn, vice president. She is a founding board member of the Vermont Software Developers’ Association. The long client list includes luminaries such as Leica Instruments. AllScripts, Palm Inc., United Technologies, and AC Rail.

Empower Mobility. In suite 104. Tom Jaros is founder and CEO of this company that develops high-quality, custom mobile software, from complex data models and custom communications to elegant, responsive, and intuitive mobile user interfaces. The company has worked with the Apple iOS platform since 2008 and has developed mobile solutions for other platforms including Psion, Palm, and Windows Mobile.

Gilbane Properties. Gilbane is the building manager.

Rep. Peter Welch. This is the local office of Vermont’s only representative to Congress.

Margolis Healy & Associates/National Center for Campus Security. Gary J. Margolis and Steven J. Healy are co-founders of this firm that specializes in campus safety, security, and regulatory compliance for higher education and K-12. Co-founder Margolis, the president and CEO of their related firm Social Sentinel Inc., has over 20 years in law enforcement and public safety, and over 10 years in higher education safety and security as chief of police at UVM. Healy is managing partner and co-founder, a nationally recognized expert on campus public safety, Title IX, and the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities that participate in financial aid programs to report crimes that occur on or near campus.