N-Squared Innovation District Initiative
Economic Development & Marketing Strategy
The Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, along with the City of Newton and the Town of Needham, has designated a 500-acre area along I-95/Route 128 as the N2 (N-Squared) Innovation District . Straddling the Newton-Needham border, it is principally comprised of two business parks, Needham Crossing in Needham and Wells Avenue Office Park in Newton, as well as the Highland Avenue/Needham Street commercial corridor. Home to roughly 150 technology companies including TripAdvisor whose new facility opened in 2015, software company PTC, and Karyopharm Therapeutics, a NASDAQ-listed life sciences company, the N2 District is well positioned for more innovation-related development.
This is an economic development and marketing strategy for the N2 Innovation District, addressing the desire of the stakeholders to be recognized as an innovation district. Using data-driven analysis, augmented by extensive interviews of local government, business, and nonprofit leaders, the N2 District Task Force, supported by Camoin, has identified the opportunity for this area to become more than just a redeveloped office park or series of business properties, but rather to achieve the vision of an innovation district where talent, innovation, and community converge to support a vibrant, entrepreneurial economy, a model for the integration of economic development, place-making and social networks. The innovation district is in itself an indication of the changing preferences for the density and diversity of urban areas over suburban regions, and for transit-accessible, wired, and mixed-used communities among the emerging workforce. The challenge for Newton and Needham is to adapt this model for an area that has historically supported traditional suburban office parks and retail.
What does this mean for the N2 Innovation District?
While the N2 District has some ingredients of what it takes to compete and participate in the regional innovation ecosystem, more needs to be done. Transformative thinking, approaches, process, and actions are needed. Specifically:
The Greater Boston area has experienced strong growth for several decades, and as a result, its economic development infrastructure is less mature
than in regions that are more competitive by necessity. Some basic building blocks for economic development attraction and retention need to be put into place.
Since the Greater Boston area already has an innovation image, and other suburbs are better known as places for innovative companies to locate,
a major challenge for the N2 Innovation District is to elevate its visibility as an innovation district—however, this must be authentic, not just an image. If N2 wants to be an innovation district, rather than just a place where older technology companies move, then it needs to fill in the gaps with the elements commonly associated with such a district, namely innovators, entrepreneurs, and research entities. Fortunately, N2 can borrow from and build upon the existing assets nearby.
A huge asset for the N2 Innovation District is the high educational attainment of the Newton-Needham population, the high proportion of foreign-born residents, and the high levels of innovation as evidenced by patents. Although this population is older, these residents currently work for many of the companies the N2 District would likely target to attract. And, the residents appear to be quite entrepreneurial, although they currently don’t stay in the area when they gain scale in their companies. This is therefore an opportunity to keep these entrepreneurial residents closer to home rather than having them commute away every day.
Talent is a prerequisite for attracting, retaining and creating companies in the N2 Innovation District, but Newton and Needham’s aging population means that companies need to be able to attract younger workers. However, high housing prices and lack of direct rapid transit service to the N2 District means that companies that want to attract Millennial workers to the area are having difficulty. There is a definite trend for young, highly educated professionals to opt to live in more urban areas such as Cambridge and Somerville, not suburban areas like Newton and Needham. The trend towards urbanization is due to both the greater number of cultural and recreational amenities in cities, and tighter networks. So, to be competitive, the N2 Innovation District will need to develop its networks, and add to its amenities, in addition to tackling its housing and transportation challenges.
These challenges are regional, not confined to a single city or town, partially because the N2 District straddles the border of Newton and Needham, and because it’s a relatively small area. There is not currently an entity or organization whose charter is to promote and develop the N2 Innovation District. In order to make this plan work, all concerned need to come together to contribute to its success.
READ THE REPORTS HERE
- Appendix A – Situation Assesment
- Appendix B – Innovation Assessment
- Appendix C – Economic Base Analysis
- Appendix D – Priority Industry Anaysis
- Appendix E – Real Estate and Land Use Analysis
- Appendix F – Peer Set Analysis
- Appendix G – Survey and Results
To guide policies and actions, the Task Force adopted this vision statement for the N2 Innovation District:
The N2 Innovation District is home to an increasing number of innovative businesses—new and established, large and small. It features a mixed-use community with retail, office space and open space integrated with housing and nearby transit, providing an affordable and desirable place to create, prosper, and adapt to an evolving business climate. The N2 Innovation District will become increasingly recognized as a destination for investment by innovation-driven industries and will enhance the quality of life in the Newton-Needham region by providing employment, tax revenues, and educational, entertainment, recreational, and cultural amenities.
Camoin Associates has provided economic development consulting services to municipalities, economic development agencies, and private enterprises
since 1999. Through the services offered, Camoin Associates has had the opportunity to serve EDOs and local and state governments from Maine
to California; corporations and organizations that include Lowes Home Improvement, FedEx, Volvo (Nova Bus) and the New York Islanders; as well
as private developers proposing projects in excess of $600 million. Our reputation for detailed, place-specific, and accurate analysis has
led to projects in 27 states and garnered attention from national media outlets including Marketplace (NPR), Forbes magazine,
and The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, our marketing strategies have helped our clients gain both national and local media coverage
for their projects in order to build public support and leverage additional funding. The firm currently has offices in Saratoga Springs, NY,
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