Time to innovate

Innovation Collective proposes center

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This picture shows the type of building that the Innovation Collective wants to build for an Innovation Center possibly next to Tubbs Hill in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - Nick Smoot, with the Innovation Collective, made a presentation last week to the Lake City Development Corp. highlighting a new innovation center they want to build in Coeur d'Alene.

If possible, he told the LCDC board, his group would like to build it on property owned by LCDC south of City Hall. The property is between Young Avenue and east Pine Avenue on the west side of Eighth Street.

"In our minds, this is the ideal location," Smoot said, adding the collective wants to develop a "creative-class" culture that would help lure high-tech entrepreneurs to Coeur d'Alene.

The barn-like building would be approximately 20,000 to 25,000 square feet, and start as a one-story with the ability to expand into two stories if needed.

Smoot said he has contacted the local neighborhood association and the Tubbs Hill Foundation about his plans, and everyone so far has been positive about the project.

Nils Rosdahl, president of the Tubbs Hill Foundation, said last week that his organization has not taken a formal position on the project, but the members who saw Smoot's presentation appeared to be fine with the project.

"I wouldn't say they were supportive, but they weren't opposed to it either," Rosdahl said.

Smoot said some of the neighbors were concerned about the wild turkeys which live on that side of Tubbs Hill, but he assured them that if the project goes through, they would protect the turkey habitat.

Ironically, he told the board, the building they are looking at is based on the visitor center building at the Wild Turkey Distillery.

The facility will house a coffee shop, an accelerator space, co-work space, a prototyping lab, classrooms, event space and private office space.

Smoot told the LCDC board he already has seven private tech companies lined up to lease space in the building.

He said they want to put in a coffee shop, not because they think another coffee shop is needed in Coeur d'Alene, but because they want the facility to have a place where the public feels comfortable.

Smoot said the facility is designed to inspire innovative ideas and connect people with different skills to help nurture new companies.

LCDC Board Chairman Denny Davis asked Smoot how that concept differs from an incubator model.

"Think of it like a boot camp," Smoot said, explaining when someone comes in with a good idea and builds a team to execute the idea, he or she could apply for the accelerator program.

In that program, he said, they will receive a small amount of startup capital and mentors in exchange for some equity in the company.

Once a company grows to about 25 employees, Smoot said, it will graduate out of the facility and relocate to a space somewhere in the community.

Deanna Goodlander, an LCDC board member, asked Smoot if he was looking for a commitment from the board.

"You are doing a lot of preliminary work, but you don't have a commitment from us yet," Goodlander said.

Smoot said his request, at this point, is for the board to consider using that property for his project and to possibly open the property for a public application process.

Goodlander, a former city councilwoman, said she liked the concept of the Coeur d'Alene Innovation Center, but she would prefer LCDC's property to be used for future city hall expansion.

"We know the city campus is going to grow in the future, and that is why LCDC bought the property in the first place," she said, adding there are other issues such as parking in that location.

Smoot said the LCDC property is the collective's first preference, but they have considered other locations.

"We've looked at other properties," he said. "But ideally we want to be downtown to highlight some of the best that Coeur d'Alene has to offer."

Davis thanked Smoot, saying he supports the concept and asking him keep LCDC in the loop as he progresses with the project.

"Keep talking with us," Davis said.

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