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Industry News

Innovation labs bring dead department stores to life

July 3, 2019

Innovation may have eluded Sears in recent years, but it seems to be abundant in some of the spaces Sears and other retailers have vacated.

In October the University of Cincinnati opened its 1819 Innovation Hub research center inside a 133,000-square-foot space that once housed Cincinnati’s first Sears store, notes Footwear News. The center is designed to help promote entrepreneurism between such corporations as Procter & Gamble or Kroger and the students.

The University of Cincinnati's 1819 Innovation Hub occupies a building that once housed Cincinnati's first Sears store (Photo by University of Cincinnati's 1819 Innovation Hub)

In Houston, Rice University is converting a 270,000-square-foot space on Main Street once occupied by Sears into an innovation site it calls The Ion, where startups, corporations and academics may collaborate on new programs and concepts. “The Ion will become Houston’s nucleus for innovation, fostering a community and culture where entrepreneurs and corporations come together to solve some of the world’s greatest problems,” said David Leebron, Rice University's president, in a statement cited by Footwear News and announcing the renovations, which kicked off in May. (Rice Management Co. is leading the project.)

In Fayetteville, Ark., meanwhile, Becca Shaddox, who heads Walmart’s STEM strategy, is creating a startup incubator called Anchor inside a former Sears space at the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

By Edmund Mander

Director, Editor-In-Chief/SCT

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