RTP seemed like a great idea 60 years ago but the tide has turned against the idea of putting job centers in the boonies. The younger workers (you know, the ones graduating from the schools that put the triangle in “Research Triangle Park”) don’t want to own cars. They want to work where they live. They want to work in a dynamic environment, not one with “large amounts of green space.” Collaboration with others spurs new ideas, not navel-gazing in green pastures (or former pastures, as is the case with RTP).
Skyrocketing gas prices and different priorities among today’s younger workforce are what dooms RTP. Yes, RTP could survive if it can become a place where one can not just work but also live and play, but it’s an uphill battle that RTP cannot win. Durham and Raleigh are light years ahead of RTP in this regard and that’s where the job growth will go.
Two years ago, concerned about competition from other research parks within the state and around the globe, RTP hired a New York urban design firm to update its master plan for the first time since the park was formed in 1959.
Since then, the urgency has also heightened as new competitors – Durham’s American Tobacco Campus and N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, to name two – have attracted numerous start-ups.
The park, meanwhile, has been hurt by appearing to be content to be a suburban, isolated campus environment, said Joel Marcus, CEO of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a California company that has been in the park since 1998 and today owns nearly a million square feet of lab space in RTP.
“That’s really not today’s world,” he said.