Tech City grows into future vision

The solar tree at the front entrance of Tech City is an attraction of its own.
The solar tree at the front entrance of Tech City is an attraction of its own.
Photo by Glory Reitz

About 35,000 people have toured the museum of entrepreneurship at the Emory Group Companies office at San Felasco Tech City in the last three years, hearing about the difference between an inventor and an entrepreneur. 

Mitch Glaeser, CEO of Emory Group and co-developer of Tech City, believes that entrepreneurs and inventors need each other to succeed. Though he has started 12 businesses himself, he said his skill is really helping other companies thrive. 

Six years after Glaeser sketched a color-coded idea for Tech City’s layout, the development is in its third phase, with 62 businesses of various types thriving in Glaeser’s vision of “ribboning,” which allows different parts of life and business to overlap. 

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Tech City falls under commercial park (CP) zoning, which allows residential and commercial construction throughout the site. 

Glaeser said many mixed-use developments split offices, housing, business fronts and restaurants into different segments. What Glaeser calls “ribboning” is the comingling of all these parts, weaving residential and commercial parts in and around each other across the 270,000 square feet of Tech City. 

The way Tech City is built is due in part to a listening tour Glaeser and his co-developer, Rich Blaser, CEO of Infinite Energy, held early on with students at the University of Florida. Glaeser said what they learned from those students was that they were interested in experiencing their world. 

The idea of an experiential world inspired a low-density property with a hiking trail and nature areas, soon to be joined by a jogging trail with workout stations along the way. 

“Companies have completely figured it out,” Glaeser said in an interview. “They’re not designing companies for owners. They’re designing companies for the workforce, and that workforce is X, Z’s and millennials.” 

All of Tech City is designed for the workforce, as Glaeser said the inspiration came from watching his brother leave home for Silicon Valley after graduating from UF with a computer science degree and nowhere near home conducive to starting a company. 

“We had pushed a family apart instead of bringing them together,” Glaeser said. “And so [Blaser and I] just decided, look, we have got to create an environment that is warm and friendly and affordable, and has a lot of flexibility to it, that companies, if they choose to stay, can stay and thrive.” 

Tech City’s other distinctive feature is its sustainability efforts, most visible through the red and yellow solar trees dotted around the property. The trees, as well as the solar panels, stretched over promenades between buildings, are bifacial, picking up solar energy directly from the sun and bouncing off the pavement. 

On average, two people per day stop to take a selfie with the tall red solar tree at the front of the property, according to Glaeser, whose office looks out on the entrance. 

The energy produced on the 82-acre campus exceeds what is used, between all the companies and new houses, Glaeser said, with no government assistance other than the normal tax credits for solar power. 

“That is unbelievable. It’s a proof of concept,” Glaeser said. 

Glaeser said he believes the project has been successful for two main reasons: its sustainability efforts, and the fact that it has never divided different types of technology from each other. From coffee and wine to dance, to data protection, glass printing, biomedical technology and more, Tech City hosts a vibrant mix of what technology can look like. 

The development has never assigned special value to one company over another for its size or product, Glaeser said.  

“I did not want to be boxed into one type of technology,” Glaeser said. “Everyone is welcome.” 

An executive with Vobile, a digital content protection company that moved in recently, told Glaeser exactly which space he needed—the one right across the way from Daft Cow Brewery. Though Glaeser said not every employee takes advantage of the proximity all the time, the brewery’s atmosphere carries over and helps promote a positive work environment for the engineers. 

The overall atmosphere at Tech City is one of growth, as construction carries on. Four large buildings with office and production space are finished and open, but another five are under construction or in planning stages. 

The finished development is planned to have 252 residential homes, 26 of which are to be available for lease this year. A community center with a glass wall facing the woods is also on the master plan, as well as a fire station, playground, pool, and basketball and tennis courts. 

Tech City is designed to be accessible by foot, bicycle, golf cart or car, with places for work, home and play mixed up beside each other. 

“That’s the success of community, is options” Glaeser said. 

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