By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — Officials from UMass-Lowell outlined plans to bring an innovation hub to the new downtown Harbor Place commercial building in hopes the city will become another Cambridge as a "go-to place" for innovation.
On Friday, UMass-Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney talked about bringing private office, prototype and office space to Haverhill similar to the UMass innovation hub in Lowell that houses 25 start-up companies.
"This innovation hub at Harbor Place will link the region's technology start-ups and entrepreneurs to resources that facilitate the development of manufacturing and commercialization of their respective innovations," she said.
Moloney said there will be "state of the art" co-working space, private office and a cutting-edge prototype-maker space.
"You have a lot of innovators in this region that will come together in this space. We'll support them with our faculty and students, making connections also with the innovation hub in Lowell," Moloney said. "Our hope is that this space is as successful as Lowell."
Moloney said it announced Thursday that the hub will be one of seven innovation labs for Johnson & Johnson, a multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer.
"Those are the types of opportunities – when we bring these small start-ups to Haverhill – that will attract bigger companies just as we've done in the greater Lowell region," Moloney said.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the technology hub will connect Haverhill's industrial parks and businesses such as Lightspeed Manufacturing and the downtown.
"When we go out to the industrial parks two of the key needs they talk to us about are hiring people," Fiorentini said. "They can't find the right people and this technology hub with UMass-Lowell is going to help with that. The second thing they talk about is training for their employees so that we can become the Cambridge of tomorrow... the innovation hub of Massachusetts."
Next fall, students will be able to attend programs such as criminal justice, psychology and business on the second floor of Harbor Place.
Classes and workshop for business executives will be offered on the third floor, which will also have incubator space with 3D printers, laser cutters and other technologies used in the design and development of products of the future.
Moloney said Harbor Place will also offer continuing education programs in criminal justice, psychology and business, as well as an MBA program and other educational opportunities, in addition to degree programs offered through Northern Essex Community College.
Moloney recognized State Rep. Brian Dempsey for his efforts in the Harbor Place project.
Dempsey, who helped secure $36 million in various form of state funding for the $70 million project, thanked the city's legislative delegation for their support and the mayor for his leadership, particularly in terms of zoning issues.
NECC President Lane Glenn noted how most of the college's transfer students eventually attend UMass-Lowell to obtain a four-year degree.
"Even though Lowell is not very far away, if you are student who has transportation challenges, a student raising a family or working full-time, as many of our students do, it can still be quite a distance," Glenn said.
Moloney said the idea behind continuing education is to offer students graduating from Northern Essex with an associate's degree a way to complete an additional two years of college and earn a bachelor's degree.
"Students can spend two years at Northern Essex and two years here," Moloney said. "The idea is two plus two."
Steven Tello, senior associate vice chancellor for UMass-Lowell, noted companies throughout the area typically send their employees to Boston or out-of-state for training or certification that it wants to offer in Haverhill.
"The idea is to offer a range of programs, such as one- and two-day classes and workshops to help keep senior executives on the cutting edge and well-informed of regulatory fields that affect their practices," Tello said.
The Harbor Place project is a partnership between the nonprofit Greater Haverhill Foundation and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, the nonprofit residential development arm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
The five-story Harbor Place commercial building, built on the site of the former Woolworth building, is ready to accept tenants and will include HC Media in a section of the first floor, UMass-Lowell on the second and third floors, and corporate headquarters for Pentucket Bank on the fourth floor. The fifth floor was recently purchased by the foundation and a local investor and will likely be leased as “preferred” office space.
The neighboring six-story Merrimack Street building and its connected Riverfront wing includes 80 housing units on upper floors and restaurants on the first floor.
The first residential tenants are expected to move in later this month.
Foundation member Ron Trombley said the Harbor Place commercial building is ready for tenants to begin their "build out," or interior design and finish work.
He said HC Media expects to begin their build out during the first quarter of the year, while Pentucket Bank is in the process of moving their corporate headquarters into Harbor Place.
The building's fifth floor will undergo interior work next year, once new tenants are selected.
A 140-car underground parking garage will be accessible by elevators and available exclusively to commercial and residential tenants of Harbor Place.