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Topeka, KS — At its meeting Wednesday, Topeka and Shawnee County’s Joint Economic Development Organization Board voted to approve a strategic phased approach, proposed by GO Topeka, to construction of downtown Topeka’s ASTRA Innovation Center. With the JEDO Board’s approval, GO Topeka and development partner BioRealty Inc. will move forward with the center’s buildout, planning to commence Phase 1 construction on or before July 1.

GO Topeka’s Innovation Advisory Board recommended the phased approach to construction so available investments of $14.5 million could be efficiently used in Phase 1, as final funding for Phase 2 is secured. The decision provides flexibility and ensures progress continues, as developers adapt to evolving circumstances such as increasing construction costs.

Phase 1 of the ASTRA Innovation Center buildout covers about two-thirds of the project and encompasses approximately 50,000 sq. ft. It can now commence without the need to meet the original pre-lease thresholds, subject to completing final documentation.

“In Phase 1, our key focuses will include essential infrastructure and lab space, because the need for such amenities is already evident,” said Stan Wendzel, founder of BioRealty Inc., the real estate development firm engaged in the center’s advancement. “This phased approach allows us to lay the foundation for the ASTRA Innovation Center while actively working to secure necessary, additional funding. It is a strategic and practical way to navigate the current landscape.”

“This strategic decision allows us to keep momentum going on the ASTRA Innovation Center project, ensuring Topeka’s innovative and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to flourish in the heart of downtown,” said Stephanie Moran, GO Topeka’s Senior Vice President of Innovation. “We are dedicated to creating an environment that fosters collaboration and creativity. There’s a shortage in our region of the type of lab space this innovation center promises, so we’re eager to meet the demand we know is out there.”

“This phased construction approach is a win for downtown Topeka and the city’s economic development efforts,” said Mark Ruelle, Innovation Advisory Board Chair. “The proposal and vote to move forward in this way demonstrate our community’s ability to pivot, as we make informed decisions that will support the long-term success of our innovation center campus. We remain committed to building a hub that catalyzes innovation and new-startup development across the region.”