March 16, 2009

SCRA MUSC Innovation Center Breaks Ground on Meeting Street in Charleston

Chelsea Hadaway  /

The SCRA MUSC Innovation Center, envisioned as an incubator for the region's burgeoning knowledge-based economy, broke ground Friday on the renovation of the former Weil's Sleep Products mattress factory on Meeting Street. Slated to open later this year, the center is a partnership between the S.C. Research Authority and the Medical University of South Carolina to provide a space for biotech startups.

Researchers and entrepreneurs voiced a need for such space with the level of research coming out of MUSC, said Steve Lanier, associate provost for research at the university. This center will provide a place to "nurture, sustain and retain" biotech entrepreneurs, he said.

In addition to supporting the breakthroughs that come out of MUSC and adding to the knowledge economy in the Lowcountry, the Innovation Center also will have a "transformative effect on this neighborhood," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. The building –- on upper Meeting Street where the ramps for Interstate 26 flow up and down –- will house a police substation and a community meeting room, as well as the lab and equipment space.

The former factory will be completely renovated and restored. The original windows will be replicated and replaced, as will fixtures within the building, said Catherine Williams, spokeswoman for Choate Construction, the general contractor for the project. The interior also will have new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire suppression systems.

Bill Mahoney, CEO of SCRA, said he hopes this is just the beginning for biotech innovation centers in the area and that many more will follow in the coming years. Riley agreed, saying Charleston should become a "national biotech and life sciences center."