Shakopee officials have applied for a federal grant to build a $16.7 million Innovation Center, a postsecondary institution to support local entrepreneurs, train workers in manufacturing and offer selected courses.
The city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) last week submitted an application to cover the project’s cost. Officials are hoping that federal funding can cover at least 80% of the price tag, with the city prepared to cover the balance.
The proposed three-story, 36,000-square-foot building would be on city-owned property at 1st Avenue and Atwood Street in downtown Shakopee.
“We’re kind of taking a risk with this facility, but it’s a good risk,” said Jenn Brewington, Shakopee economic development specialist. “We’re hoping we can become a national model.”
The Innovation Center would feature three areas, Brewington said: a learning hub, an entrepreneurship hub and a third hub aimed at attracting and retaining businesses.
Michael Kerski, Shakopee’s planning and development director, said it would be among the first buildings in the country designed with COVID-19 safety standards in mind.
Sketches show a two-bay shop area that would accommodate cars and large equipment, several classrooms and smaller workshops, conference rooms, a coffee shop area and a commercial kitchen. Office and co-working space also would be available.
Brewington said that even in this era of online learning, there’s still a need for physical spaces to encourage collaboration. The building’s design takes into account the challenges of interacting face-to-face during the pandemic.
There would be no doorknobs or elevator buttons, she said, and it would have a special high-tech air filtration system. Blueprints include outdoor classrooms and meeting areas, some on the rooftop, and wider halls than had been planned.
The idea of an Innovation Center — a working title and not its official name — has been tossed around for years, but Shakopee officials said they became serious about plans while crafting the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
The center is a way to promote an entrepreneurial mind-set, said Jody Brennan, who sits on the EDA and City Council.
The need for a place offering postsecondary courses “was really evident,” Brennan said, since the Minnesota State system doesn’t have an outpost in Scott County. City officials have signed a memorandum of understanding with Minnesota State University, Mankato to explore offering classes at the site.
The center may offer certificates and degrees, such as a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing sciences, that aren’t available elsewhere in Minnesota, Kerski said.
Keeping residents in the county for jobs and schooling is one of Shakopee’s goals, Brennan said, as well as the focus of Scott County’s Live, Learn, Earn initiative. The county is supportive of the city’s efforts but hasn’t been asked for money, said County Commissioner Dave Beer, adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” the city will get the grant.
Beer noted that the need for new educational buildings has slowed recently, but the Innovation Center isn’t an “entire build-out” for a community or vocational college. “This is not a traditional postsecondary, two-year vo-tech,” he said. “It’s a hybrid approach.”
City officials will learn if they receive the grant in the next two months. If so, they hope to break ground in fall 2021 and open in fall 2022.