DURHAM — The InterOperability Lab’s move downtown is nearly official with the signing of a 20-year lease that will make the IOL the anchor tenant of a new $30 million development on Madbury Road.
The Madbury Commons project recently received final planning board approval for the mixed-use development on 2.6 acres in the heart of downtown Durham. Even more recently, the University of New Hampshire finalized the lease with Golden Goose, the developers of the property.
The mixed-use development will feature 126 apartments able to house about 525 students. It will also include 45,000 square feet of commercial space. The IOL will occupy 25,000 square feet and 10,000 additional square feet will house complementary commercialization efforts on the part of the university.
Construction is scheduled to begin in May, and the building is expected to open in time for the fall 2015 semester.
Marc Sedam, executive director of UNH Innovation, said locating the IOL downtown will allow for better integration and more opportunities for collaboration with the broader university campus.
The IOL is currently housed at the far west edge of campus and employs about 100 students each semester in addition to about 20 full-time staff.
UNH-IOL was founded in 1988 and is a full-scale, nonprofit test lab that provides independent, broad-based interoperability and standards conformance testing for data, telecommunications and storage networking products and technologies.
Although the IOL is not well-known in New Hampshire, it is well-known by some of the largest technology companies in the world and is the premier testing site for many of them to determine whether their hardware will be compatible with other systems.
Sedam said the move will create a better connection between those companies and start-ups and the local shops and restaurants that help support the local economy.
Durham Administrator Todd Selig called the move a “paradigm shifting proposition for downtown Durham” and is the culmination of nearly five years of dialogue between the town and the university.
“Durham recognizes the importance of moving this university-related enterprise into privately owned, fully taxable property, in support of Durham’s downtown core,” Selig said in a statement on Friday.
As part of the project, two fraternity houses and an outdated housing complex known as “The Greens” will be demolished.
Pettee Brook will also be cleaned up and rehabilitated with a pedestrian bridge passing over it from a parking lot on Pettee Brook Lane to the main entrance of the IOL.