UNC Charlotte Creates PORTAL for Business Growth and Innovation
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte selected LaBella Associates to design the University’s new Partnership, Outreach, and Research to Accelerate Learning (PORTAL) building. The new facility was designed to aid business growth and job creation while supporting research and innovation in the area. The vision for the space was to have an institution that can foster relationships between entrepreneurs, peers, students, and faculty. UNC Charlotte has established long-term partnerships with many area companies and the PORTAL building allows for a new capacity to forge research partnerships and expose talented students to potential regional employers, which are expected to locate operations in the building.
The four-story PORTAL building is approximately 96,000 sq. ft. and located prominently at the entrance of the Charlotte Research Institute. The building provides approximately 24,000 square feet of basic office space to house Ventureprise, formerly known as the Ben Craig Center and one of the nation’s first university-based small business incubators, which will offer business model development, coaching, mentoring, and other related services connected to University resources. The building also contains approximately 3,000 sq. ft. of information technology (IT) laboratory space and a 10,000 sq. ft. certified Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) capable of housing Department of Defense top secret level IT requirements, as well as commercial office tenant space and a retail/food service facility.
LaBella’s designers translated the aspiration for growth and innovation into the design of the facility. Open office spaces, glass-walled conference rooms, and gathering spaces surround a four-story atrium. Natural lighting was a large consideration in the space and skylights allow for an airy workspace, while open pedestrian bridges connect resources. Designed for LEED certification, the building is also equipped with rooftop solar panels to aid in the production of domestic hot water. In addition, the University has applied for a grant to add a high-bay precision meteorology lab with heavy environmental controls for use in its ongoing meteorology program. The space will provide additional research space for the existing Charlotte Research Institute.