Cortex Innovation Community

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Cortex Innovation Community
Cortex Innovation Community Logo.png
Founded2002 (2002)
FounderWashington University, BJC HealthCare, University of Missouri – St. Louis, St. Louis University, and the Missouri Botanical Garden
TypeTax-exempt 501(c)3 Non-profit
FocusLand use, land development, redevelopment, placemaking, marketing, startups, financing and fundraising.
CoordinatesCoordinates: 38°38′05″N 90°15′04″W / 38.63465415°N 90.25115899250936°W / 38.63465415; -90.25115899250936
Area served
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
22 directors[1]
Key people
Henry Webber, Chairman; Dennis Lower, President and CEO, William Henry Danforth, John Dubinsky[2][3][4]
Formerly called
Cortex West Redevelopment Corporation

Cortex Innovation Community, Cortex Innovation District, or Cortex is an innovation district in Saint Louis.[5] Cortex is a 200-acre hub of technology and biological science research, development, and commercialization.[6] It anchors St. Louis startup technology companies in the city.[7][8]

Cortex states that once their master plan is completed, there will be $2.3 billion of construction and more than 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development, including 13,000 jobs in technology.[7][9][1]

The current initiative for Cortex is called Cortex 3.0, $170 million expansion of Cortex to be completed in fall 2018.[10][11]


In 1998, William Henry Danforth, whom 3 years prior had retired as chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, recognized that the region was not building upon its core strengths in medicine and plant sciences. He formed the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences, now known as BioSTL.[6]

This eventually led to the creation of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Coming off that successful project, William Henry Danforth and John Dubinsky, CEO of financial consulting firm Westmoreland Associates and the eventual chairman of the Cortex board, went to Cambridge to study Kendall Square, the most notable innovation district to see how the concept could be used in St. Louis.[2]

The idea for Cortex came from the idea to create a district where companies could have a presence with access to talent, new technology, labs and intellectual property in order to innovate. The reason the Midtown neighborhood was selected for the location of Cortex is because the founding institutions are nearby and the Millenial Generation showed desire to live and work in the nearby urban areas.[2][12][1]

Cortex as an organization was founded in 2002 by Washington University (WashU), BJC HealthCare (BJC), University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL), St. Louis University (SLU), and the Missouri Botanical Garden.[2]

Cortex is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.[13][1]

To start the initial nonprofit to purchase land, members contributed $29 million USD as collateral for loans and purchasing of land. Washington University provided $15 million, BJC and SLU gave $5 million each, and UMSL gave $4 million USD.[2]

The Cortex West Redevelopment Corporation was classified by the city under Missouri statute Chapter 353, as a master developer of the district. St. Louis Mayar Francis Slay gave Cortex the ability to redevelop the area broadly in the "public interest" with the tools of issuing tax abatements and using eminent domain if necessary, as has been documented as least two times.[2][1]

The first hire by Cortex was CEO, Dennis Lower. Lower executed a plan called Cortex 2.0 and converted Cortex from a bioscience district to an open mixed-used district. Also part of Cortex 2.0 was a shift to startup technology companies.[14]

In summer of 2014, Square, the payments company setup by St. Louis natives Jim McKelvey and Jack Dorsey opened offices at Cortex 4240.[14]

In 2015, Ikea opened in Cortex.[14]

In 2018, Microsoft opened its first midwest headquarters in Cortex building 4220.[12]

In Fall 2018, once Venture Cafe Innovation Hall opens at the 4220 Building in Cortex, 23 City Blocks Hospitality Group's restaurant and cafe, The Chocolate Pig will open.[15]

In June 2018, AON announced it was relocating 200 of its employees to the Cortex new 4220 building.[16]


The Cortex Innovation Community is located in the Midtown neighborhood. It is over 200 acres of land and is situated nearby St. Louis’ Central West End and Forest Park neighborhoods. It is next to internationally known Washington University, its medical campus, St. Louis University, and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Cortex is near cultural institutions including the Grand Center Arts District and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Cortex is next to Forest Park, which is home to the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, the Missouri History Museum.


One of the primary companies building Cortex is Wexford. They have developed 3 properties and a total of 536,903 square feet.[17]


  • 1.7 million square feet completed or in-development.
  • Credited for $500 million of investment in the last 14 years and making 3,800 technology jobs.[1]
  • Installation of MetroLink light-rail station called "Cortex Station"[18][19][20]
  • Over 370 companies based in Cortex.[1][citation needed]
  • Addition of new building 4220 a $53 Million building includes Microsoft and Innovation Hall, a 13,800-square-foot space based upon Venture Café’s District Hall in Boston.[21][22]
  • Aloft hotel under construction, a $25 million USD hotel with 129 rooms.[9][23]
  • Phase one of a five level parking garage started in Fall 2018 for $14.7 million USD.[24]
  • Esri expanded its presence in St. Louis at Cortex to service their major client National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency who is opening their Next NGA West campus in the near future.[25][26]

Innovation Centers[edit]

CET St. Louis[edit]

The Center for Emerging Technologies (CET) is developing and establishing next-generation biomedical science and other advanced technology companies.[7][27]


BioGenerator discovers technologies and services with potential with an academic, research or entrepreneur to make a company.[7][28]

In 2018, BioGenerator announced they will anchor the new Cortex biotech building.[29]

CIC St. Louis[edit]

Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) provides services for startups and companies including innovations spaces and coworking. CIC supports innovation in public relations, law, education, technology and life sciences.[7][30]

Venture Cafe St. Louis[edit]

Venture Café St. Louis is a nonprofit hosting community-focused events and programs which support early-stage entrepreneurs.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wagner, Julie (5 May 2016). "In St. Louis, a gateway to innovation and inclusion". Brookings. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mack, Mary (27 February 2017). "Conceiving Cortex: Cortex Special Feature, Chapter 1, 2000-2002". EQSTL. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ Edwards, Greg (30 November 2012). "John Dubinsky". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Stifel Official Bio". Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Cortex Official Website". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Cortex - Oral History". 28 August 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Cortex Official The District". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  8. ^ Arruda, William (5 December 2017). "What To Look For In A City When You're Relocating For Work". Forbes. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Aloft Hotel Breaks Ground in Cortex". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  10. ^ Mack, Mary (27 February 2017). "Cortex's Evolution From A Life Science District To A Magnet For St. Louis Innovators: A Feature Series". EQSTL. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  11. ^ Mack, Mary (2 March 2017). "Cortex Looks Ahead: Cortex Special Feature, Chapter 4, 2017 And Beyond". EQSTL. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b Sisson, Patrick (7 Aug 2018). "Universities, chasing the startup economy, reshape urban real estate". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Cortex Official Who We Are". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  14. ^ a b c Mack, Mary (1 March 2017). "Cortex Shifts Focus: Cortex Special Feature, Chapter 3, 2010-2016". EQSTL. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  15. ^ Stiles, Nancy (11 April 2018). "The Chocolate Pig to Open at Cortex Innovation Hall This Fall". Feast Magazine. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  16. ^ Feldt, Brian (8 June 2018). "Aon relocating 200 employees from Clayton to St. Louis' Cortex district". St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Wexford + Cortex". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  18. ^ Diane Toroian Keaggy (24 July 2018). "Cortex MetroLink Station to open July 31". Washington University The Source. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Metro Announces Opening Date for Cortex Metrolink Station". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  20. ^ Kae M. Petrin (31 July 2018). "Cortex MetroLink stop opens with promises of tech job growth". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  21. ^ Feldt, Brian (13 April 2018). "Developer plans more buildings in St. Louis' booming Cortex innovation district". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Tarlton Overseeing Construction of St. Louis Innovation Hall". rejournal. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  23. ^ Jacob Barker; Tim Bryant (20 October 2016). "New $170 million Cortex development to add hotel, apartments, parking garage". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  24. ^ "Work starts on parking garage at Cortex". 13 August 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Esri Expands St. Louis Office to New Space in Tech District". 30 May 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  26. ^ "Next NGA West". Next NGA West Official Site. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Center for Emerging Technology". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  28. ^ "Biogenerator". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  29. ^ Barker, Jacob (18 April 2018). "BioGenerator plans to anchor Cortex biotech building". St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  30. ^ "CIC Official". Retrieved 18 September 2018.

External links[edit]