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[NY Times] Generating High-Tech Ideas Ensconced in Historic Stamford

The old Town Hall in Stamford, Conn. has been renovated and will become a home for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The old Town Hall in Stamford, Conn. has been renovated and will become a home for aspiring entrepreneurs.

February 21st 2012

By Christine Negroni

STAMFORD, Conn. — The Old Town Hall here, a Beaux-Arts building on the National Registry of Historic Places, has sat unused for 25 years, a victim of Stamford’s rapid growth in the 20th century. But the Town Hall will join the 21st-century economy, with the announcement this month that it would become an incubator for business start-ups in a 10-year lease agreement with private investors. The Stamford Innovation Center, as the venture is called, is expected to open by summer, and aspiring entrepreneurs will get work space, mentoring and access to investors.

Acting as a corporate sponsor for the venture will be Sikorsky Aircraft, the helicopter maker and military contractor based in nearby Stratford, Conn. The company, a subsidiary of United Technologies, has leased 2,000 square feet on the building’s second floor, and will coach tenants and may even invest in them, said Chris Van Buiten, the vice president for Sikorsky Innovations, a network of employees focused on finding new technologies.

Sikorsky is priming the pump by issuing five technological challenges to the public that, on the surface, are aviation related. It is seeking proposals on, among other things, ways to apply wireless monitoring to digitized aircraft and to obscure the visibility of airplanes in flight. Successful applicants will have use of the company’s space at the Town Hall for a year.

“In much the same way that Sikorsky does not make the engines or avionics that are installed into our helicopters,” Mr. Van Buiten said, “likewise will some next-generation technology solutions not be produced by us.”

The Stamford Innovation Center is renting most of the old Town Hall from the city. The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development provided a half-million-dollar loan to turn the building into modern office space.

In 2008 the city began renovating the Town Hall, with the hope of finding a tenant. It spent $16 million enlarging the space and making it handicapped-accessible….Read More

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