An Innovative Entrepreneur Hub Called VentureNorth Is Forming In Downtown Peterborough

In an exciting and bold move that could be a game changer for Peterborough on many levels, four innovative local entrepreneurs have partnered to transform the former Promenade Building (270 George St.) into a New Entrepreneurship & Business Hub in downtown Peterborough.

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

The 38,000 square-foot space—named VentureNorth—is a huge addition to Peterborough’s downtown core and landscape. This creative economy hub will bring entrepreneurs, start-ups, public partners and innovation economy businesses together under one roof, and accelerate the growth of startups.

Similar successful hub models exist in Waterloo (Communitech), Toronto (DMZ) and Oshawa (Spark)...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

And now Peterborough has its own in VentureNorth.

The initiative is a private enterprise led by Paul Bennett, President, Ashburnham Realty; Mike D’Alessandro, Co-Founder, Park Place Financial & Farmlife; Robert Gauvreau, President, Gauvreau & Associates; and Cameron Taylor, CEO, OUTDOORsmart!. (Michael Skinner, an original co-founder of the initiative, has recently left the partnership upon being selected as President and CEO of the Innovation Cluster.)

Photo of new space—still under renovations—courtesy innovation Cluster

Photo of new space—still under renovations—courtesy innovation Cluster

The concept of VentureNorth is this: Create an ecosystem where entrepreneurs and business people can connect and work alongside each other in open concept spaces to drive success and thrive.

Indeed, when you put a bunch of smart, driven and passionate entrepreneurs in the same place, amazing things happen. Start-ups are more successful when they work side-by-side. They learn from each other, motivate each other, challenge each other. A powerful ecosystem is created.

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Partnership with public agencies, such as the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, is vital to this effort of creating successful and sustainable businesses.

“The new 10,000 square foot incubator, located on the third floor, is on path to hold 40 to 50 client companies," says Michael Skinner, President & CEO of the Innovation Cluster, which recently moved into the building. "Peterborough is primed to become an entrepreneurial region and the Innovation Cluster is excited to be part of it."

The Innovation Cluster has begun renovation and design of their new space as seen in the photos but carpet is still to be removed, lots of painting is yet to be done, and other offices will be added.

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Public partners participating in the initiative include GPIC, Peterborough Economic Development, Start-Up Peterborough and Junior Achievement. These public partners will work together to fuel job growth and economic diversification. VentureNorth says more partners will be announced over the coming months.

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Photo of new space courtesy innovation Cluster

Rhonda Keenan

Rhonda Keenan

"Peterborough Economic Development is pleased to relocate to this collaborative ecosystem that will support the growth of the business community in the region," says Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough Economic Development (PED), which will be moving in early 2017. "From this location, we will continue to provide service to entrepreneurs, businesses and visitors in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.”

For PED, this hub is an opportunity to consolidate two locations—the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Visitor Centre located at 1400 Crawford Drive, and the PED office at 210 Wolfe Street, which includes the Business Advisory Centre. Bringing their services to a centralized hub allows for the PED team to work more closely with community partners and offers a more convenient location for entrepreneurs in the downtown core.

creative spaces Overlooking the otonabee River (photo courtesy innovation cluster)

creative spaces Overlooking the otonabee River (photo courtesy innovation cluster)

Mayor Bennett is excited about the potential of this new space...

“As Peterborough continues to grow from its historic strength in manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship take on increasingly important roles in the economy of our region," he says. "The VentureNorth initiative is an exciting example of private-sector investment that will stimulate economic activity, benefiting their own businesses by lifting up other businesses and in the process nurturing the health of our overall community."

Photo courtesy Innovation Cluster

Photo courtesy Innovation Cluster

The founders' belief in Peterborough’s potential as a growing innovation economy inspired the group to personally invest more than $2 million in capital to launch VentureNorth. This commitment will extend into the future with 100% of the net operating surpluses generated from leases at the VentureNorth building to be reinvested back into start-ups, financial support for public partners and the funding of entrepreneur mentorship programs.

Photo courtesy Innovation Cluster

Photo courtesy Innovation Cluster

Over the next 6 months, the partners will dedicate $1 million to redevelop the building at 270 George St North. The team has partnered with local firm Lett Architects, whose vision (see renderings below) has led to the design of a contemporary, revitalized space that they hope will help define Peterborough as Canada’s most livable innovation economy.

The Innovation Cluster team (Mike Skinner, Rosalea Terry, Alyssa Stewart & Carey McMaster) in new space

The Innovation Cluster team (Mike Skinner, Rosalea Terry, Alyssa Stewart & Carey McMaster) in new space

During the fall of 2016, VentureNorth will focus on integrating public partners and start-ups into the location.

As for the building itself, here's what it currently looks like...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

Phase 1 of its evolution will look more like this...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

Phase 2, in what Cameron Taylor tells PTBOCanada is a "grand vision" for the building, would look something like this...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

Look at how stunning this building could look...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

And at night—viewing it from George Street or the banks of the Otonabee River—wow...

Image via VentureNorth

Image via VentureNorth

The key pillars of VentureNorth's purpose is this...

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION -> By successfully incubating innovation economy start-ups, VentureNorth will help diversify Peterborough’s Economy.

TALENT RETENTION & MENTORING -> VentureNorth will create opportunities for post-secondary graduates to stay and start successful businesses in Peterborough. It creates an ecosystem that helps attract our alumni back home while offering mentoring & training opportunities for local job growth.

JOB GROWTH AND ACQUISITION -> Start-ups create jobs. And when we create a greater choice of job opportunities at innovation businesses, we’ll attract more multi-earner families who are considering a move to Peterborough.

INNOVATIVE BUSINESSES -> To be a place that helps innovation businesses start, grow and succeed. To create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that fosters collaboration, mentorship and opportunity. To define Peterborough as an Innovation Economy.

Image courtesy Innovation Cluster

Image courtesy Innovation Cluster

VentureNorth has the potential to become one of the most important spaces in Peterborough, and put us on the map right up there with other Canadian cities like Waterloo and beyond that have fully embraced the innovation and tech economy.

—post by Neil Morton

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