Cal Poly to Lease Space for Tech Startups in Downtown San Luis Obispo

The goal is to contribute to San Luis Obispo County’s economic growth by allocating space for local entrepreneurs.

By Cynthia Lambert, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

Cal Poly has signed a five-year lease to expand its innovation and entrepreneurship programs and provide housing to more than 30 students in downtown San Luis Obispo.

University officials announced this week that they signed a lease for 6,000 square feet of commercial space and 12,600 square feet of residential space in the Blackstone-Sauer buildings at the corner of Monterey and Chorro streets, which are being remodeled as part of the Chinatown project near Mission Plaza.

“The housing and additional commercial space will provide talented and focused entrepreneurial students with the opportunity to live and work in a community of thinkers and doers,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a news release.

The new space will expand programs offered by Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE), though the exact uses for the space will be defined over the next six months, said Judy Mahan, director of the CIE Small Business Development Center for Innovation and Incubator programs.

“It turns our downtown into a really dynamic space with all these tech startups,” she said. “These are students we can engage and provide resources to them locally and keep that dynamism downtown.”

The larger goal, she added, is to contribute to San Luis Obispo County’s economic growth “by providing the best possible resources to these startups with the hope that they will continue to grow locally and hire locally and create jobs locally.”

Cal Poly’s CIE manages and supports a variety of programs, including the Hatchery, an on-campus program that provides guidance to students in the early stages of forming a company, as well as the SLO HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs.

The Accelerator program offers $10,000 in seed money, hands-on mentorship and weekly workshops to help aspiring business owners.

“It could be similar programming to what goes on in the HotHouse,” Mahan said. “We could decide that more mature incubating companies could mature into that space. That’s just one idea.”

The SLO HotHouse, initially located on Morro Street, is moving to a new 15,000-square-foot space on the 800 block of Higuera Street, directly above the Ross Dress for Less store. Cal Poly has signed a 10-year lease for that space.

On Monterey Street, the university has signed a five-year lease with an option for two five-year extensions, according to spokesman Matt Lazier. Cal Poly will pay $216,000 per year for the office space and $412,000 a year for the residential element, he said.

University housing officials are still determining the cost for student residents in the new project. More details are expected soon, Lazier said.

The Chinatown project, developed by Copeland Properties, will retain a few historic buildings, including the Blackstone and Sauer Bakery buildings (two separate but contiguous buildings) on Monterey Street at Chorro Street.

Cal Poly is leasing space in both buildings, including 32 of the 37 apartments planned as part of the Chinatown project, said Mark Rawson, the Copeland Properties’ architect. Cal Poly’s apartments will be divided into 30 one-person units and two two-person units.

Rawson said Cal Poly, knowing that HotHouse needed to move from Morro Street, put out a request for proposals more than a year ago seeking commercial and residential space downtown.

“With that, we put together our proposal and got into discussions with them,” he said.

He said Copeland Properties will complete the work in the buildings so they’re ready for occupancy by Cal Poly.

Lazier said Cal Poly expects to move in sometime around Aug. 1, 2016, depending on the construction schedule.

©2015 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.